Well, the best part is we didn't lose anybody. The parts people said they liked best afterwards were the Earth Revealed demonstration, the U-505 sub and I think the baby chicks. The kids asked a ton of questions at Earth Revealed and our docent, Oscar, answered them all very patiently. We even got to see some galaxy and solar system images on the TV screens that he sometimes forgets to show. Thanks, Oscar!
We had 22 kids and five chaperones. Many Bradys came, including the second youngest Brady boy, who is only in kindergarten or first grade, but his second-grade sister didn't want to go so we let him come instead. His big brothers looked out for him. School Lady's younger two daughters came. The three kids whose dad I met at soccer came. Jay-Z and Joey came. Danny & Junior and Oscar made it, just barely. Peter Pan and his two younger brothers came. The only one who caused a serious problem was a boy from up on the next block who had not come to bowling and pizza. I was worried he might be trouble, and I was right. I may not invite him again, or only in a much smaller group setting. Unfortunately, the two kids from Su Casa missed it, but we were still able to use their van, which made the whole expedition possible.
Before we left, I had them all line up along my fence and introduce themselves to one of Medicine Man's buddies. This was a bit of a job. I wanted to make sure I knew them all, too, and get a count at the very beginning, of course. We had to squish in the van to make room for everybody, but we did it. Medicine Man and his friend both had cars, which helped.
The Su Casa van had about a quarter tank in it, and it doesn't accelerate well. We chugged down Garfield Boulevard to 57th Street. One of the oldest Brady girls sat up front with me and told me about how she's learning to drive over at Wells High School. She already has her learner's permit. We talked about college, too. She's thinking someplace warmer and far away. I told her a little about Rollins College in Florida and the University of California at Davis. She spent a month last summer at Georgetown and had a great time.
She also helped me think through what to go see. From talking with her younger siblings and cousins over the weekend, it seemed like the Fairy Castle, the submarine, the train and the science demonstration were all popular ideas. So I figured we'd split up by interest and then meet up at the Earth Revealed! demo at 3 p.m.
The van made it the few hundred feet on Lake Shore Drive from 57th Street to Science Drive. There was plenty of room to park, also good when driving a 15-passenger van.
Pam Barry from the museum's education department met us at the entrance with enough tickets for everybody, even though I had underestimated the count. Thanks, Pam!
When we got inside, the game plan changed slightly. All the guys wanted to see the submarine and all the girls wanted to see the fairy castle. Though I would normally try to resist such blatant gender stereotyping, I thought this would work out with our chaperonage pretty well. Medicine Man and I could do the boys and our new person could go with the girls, who would really be kept in line by the very responsible high school girls we had with us.
The boys were already getting antsy while this was being worked out. I parked them inside the space shuttle exhibit and told them they couldn't come out of there until we knew where we were going. Medicine Man got a call that a couple more of his contacts were coming to meet us. I drafted them to come with us to the sub--I could already see that our 13 boys were not going to be successfully tracked by just two adults. I tried really hard to get some male chaperones from the neighborhood but it didn't work out. These two extra people were some help, but not as much help as I had hoped.
Anyway, off the girls went to the Fairy Castle and off we went to the sub. The guys liked the movie about the bombing of the German sub by American warplanes--when the bombs fell the floor shook. They were transfixed watching it. Of course they never stopped to read any of the little placards next to anything. When I had a minute I would stop with a couple of them and paraphrase it before they ran off to the next thing in a case.
They also really liked a simulation where a two-person team went on a "training mission" and drove a submarine. They waited very patiently in line and teamed up nicely to do it. This, however, is where trouble struck. Once the first pair finished, I went off with them to look at some things, and then realized we were going to need a chaperone at the end of the hallway to keep them from getting too far ahead. So I went to the end of the hall and told everybody they could only come to that point. I thought they would be fine within that few hundred foot space, but I was wrong. There was an argument about someone taking too long at the periscope station (or whatever it was) and the new guy started cussing out some kid's mother. I'm sure I should have made him go apologize, but I only got their version (which was they had barely started when the mom tried to boot him--her version was he had been on for "eight minutes"- who knows?), and even middle class kids were having problems with each other and their parents over it (I guess it was interesting enough to keep one person on it a long time, and there were only two of them), so I asked him to explain, let him off with a warning and went to apologize to the mom myself.
However, they all had fun pretending to drive a submarine. Unfortunately, the tour inside the sub costs $5 extra and for 17 people that was a little much for me. They peeked inside and checked out the surrounding displays. Then we saw the baby chicks and some other stuff on the way to the Earth demonstration. The girls may actually have seen more of the museum than we did--they saw the baby chicks and the airplane.
I was really proud of them for all the questions they asked at Earth Revealed and how much they all knew. They didn't get too bored or antsy, even toward the end. Oscar was very patient, answered all their questions and showed us an extra demonstration about global warming. Afterwards we went back to Marshfield Avenue and I ordered pizza. There was pizza and soccer out back and pizza and photos in the kitchen. I did spring for the group photo for the guys at U-505 (they gave us the school discount).
What I learned on this trip:
1. If you want kids to digest substantive information at a museum, go in groups with no more than three children to one adult unless you have some exceptionally strong relationships among the children. I barely figured out how that U-boat got captured and learned even less about how it got to the museum. (The boys may know more about that last bit--they were watching the time lapse movie about building the hall while I was counting heads and checking who was coming out of the bathroom.)
I could almost imagine taking six Bradys and making it work, but only if at least one of the oldest girls came along, too.
2. Elementary school teachers are geniuses. I can't imagine facing a crowd bigger than that single-handed in a museum, and I used to teach high school.
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