February 1, 2012

Notes from the Ontario Science Centre field trip

February 1, 2012 - Categories: life, reflection

W- and I volunteered for the school’s field trip to the Ontario Science Centre.

On the bus ride there, I saw this curious case of two kids wedged into one seat. There was an empty seat across the aisle.

One muttered, “I sat here first.”

“No, I got here first.”

“No, I was first.”

“No, I was here first.”

This fruitless exchange lasted three minutes with little variation. Both were aware of the empty seat, which stayed unoccupied even as the bus filled. Both argued over this one seat anyway, and about being right.

Eventually the girl stood. She dried her tears behind her papers and looked glum the rest of the ride.

Isn’t it odd how we get drawn into wanting to be right instead of wanting to be better?

—-

The special exhibition focused on models of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions. The teachers asked the students to sketch at least two of the models in the provided journals, and to complete questionnaires. The students had one hour to do their the assignment. There were four groups, one for each parent volunteer.

As the doors opened, the students spread throughout the area. Some sat before the scale models of various inventions: an air screw, a wire-controlled bird, a lion designed to dispense lilies from its mouth. Others were fascinated by the interactive displays on the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, and other creations.

I quickly gave up on trying to keep track of the students in my group. Instead, I browsed the exhibits, occasionally nudging students who had gotten distracted and hadn’t started on their work. It was interesting to see the differences: the students who had come with pencils and sharpeners, the students who scrambled to borrow; the students who completed their work, the students who pursued other interests even outside the questionnaire.

—-

After the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition and a quick head-count, we gathered for lunch. W-, J-, and I tucked into the sandwiches we made with bread I baked this weekend. Mmm.

—-

The students had an hour to explore other exhibits after lunch. It was impossible to keep everyone together, but fortunately they were old enough to be responsible for reassembling near the lockers at 1:45 PM. There were a few primary school field trips on at the same time, and coordinating those must have been much more of a challenge.

The students moved through the exhibits in a loose crowd. People left and rejoined the groups. They chatted with their friends and played with exhibits, mostly ignoring their questionnaires. At the end of the day, many of them said they enjoyed the trip very much. By this time, even the girl who had lost out in the seat battle had cheered up.

—-

I was tired after a full day surrounded by the tumult of teenagers, and it looked like all three of us needed introvert recharging time. J- tried to work on her history assignment after coming home, and she was totally out of it. W- encouraged her to take a break, and she headed into the living room.

I took my own introvert break by working on my computer and enjoying some tea. After my cup, I poked my head into the living room and found W- sharing some tips so that J- can handle her energy better. He told J- that instead of playing with her Nintendo DS when she felt her brain was tired, she should try resting her eyes and brain instead: napping, perhaps, or doing something like tidying up. Games can be distracting and overstimulating. They often leave you more tired than when you started.

W- shared ideas from The Hacker Ethic on how people do things for survival, social connection, or entertainment. We’d like to help J- raise the level of the things she does: to not do them just for survival (good grades), but to motivate herself by tapping social connections or perhaps even to find entertainment and fulfillment in doing the work.

It made me think about play as escape and play as reward. W- and I don’t use games to escape. We occasionally play, but more as a reward for ourselves after chores and duties are done, and because we’re curious about the cleverness designed into the games. Our vacations go even further – not escapes from daily responsibilities, but investments into relationships and routines. This is something that would be interesting for J- to learn how to do.

This is a long post today, but there was much to think about, and more still to digest and understand.