Today was the big day! The 3rd grade trip to Lansing, our state capital. It is a trip that the little 3rd graders anticipate since September and it's never a disappointment. This year, each class got to bring along six parent chaperones - a real treat! Due to the number of volunteers interested, we had to hold a lottery, of sorts, and pull names out randomly for the "winners".
So, today, at 8:30 a.m., a full half hour before school normally begins, the little ones began arriving. They had packed a little backpack of toys and books for the trip. They had dressed up to look their best while in the capitol building. They were excited and anxious to get on the bus and get going on our day of adventure. The chaperones stepped up, took responsibility for their group, and were wonderful in every way.
8:45 a.m. Departure time and we were loaded on the bus. Forty-two third graders, two teachers, and twelve parent chaperones. Just one small problem. There were only fifty-five seats on the bus. I'm left standing at the front of the bus, by the bus driver, a nice gentleman by the name of Jim.
"Well, looks like there isn't room for me to go!" I begin, loud enough for the first fifteen rows to hear me. "No problem. I've got plenty to do back in the classroom. You'll all be fine - I'll see you later today."
At this, a mom in the second row, stands up, and grabs onto my arm tightly as she pulls me towards her. "Oh my God! You are not leaving us here!" she pleads with me, clear desperation in her eyes.
At this, my new friend Jim, points to a pull out "jump seat" and tells me that I can sit there. Great. This way I can be 4 inches from the front windshield and six inches from the doors. Perfect. Especially speeding down a highway at 70 miles per hour. I pull the seat down, buckle up, and smile feebly at Jim.
And we're off! Within two minutes three kids have asked me when they will get their snack and when the movie will start. Seriously? We are not even out of the parking lot. So, I put the movie in, hand out bananas and return to my seat at the windshield. A calm settles over the bus as the students settle in, eat their bananas, and watch the movie. Books and toys are removed from backpacks and the kids are clearly enjoying their comfy seats on the charter bus.
About thirty minutes into the trip, the students begin to want to check out the bus bathroom. Although we've talked about this prior to the trip, and I've explained to them that it's much like an airplane bathroom, and my suggestion is to wait to use the restroom at the museum, the majority of them want to see for themselves. There is some thrill to going to the bathroom on a bus; it's expected.
Before long, we arrived at the Historical Museum. Our wonderful bus driver dropped us off at the entrance and we entered the building, greeted by a large white pine tree. The students gathered around me, excited to see the tall state tree and be in the museum. It's wonderful to see their excitement and energy as we hear the orientation from the docent for the museum.
I caught up with a group of my students in the mining area of the museum, a kid favorite, and just as we're headed to the logging area and looking at the Big Wheel, an alarm sounds in the museum and they announce that everyone needs to exit the museum. There is an emergency. The kids and the chaperones look to me, and I look to the docent, who is waving us calmly over to the exit doors. Several of the kids are visibly upset, worried that there is some sort of real emergency, so I hold their hands and tell them not to worry. I explain that it's just like a fire drill or tornado drill at school. I tell them we are just practicing. But, in realty, I am wondering what is going on. We exit the building, and in the rain, head away from the museum. The kids were terrific. I know they were scared, but they followed all the directions and listened to the adults.
Within ten minutes, we were moved back inside the museum, but, unfortunately, we had lost precious time for touring. I made an executive decision, with my new friend Jim the bus driver, to have everyone eat their lunch on the bus as we drove to the capitol building for our 12:30 tour. The kids loved it! Eating on a bus! It was raining, the museum eating area was full, and there weren't a lot of options.
Next up was the capitol building tour. Lansing's capitol building is a historical landmark, beautifully restored, and an amazing building.
The kids loved the part where they lie down on the glass floor and look up at the dome, 160' up with painted stars and the muses. It's absolutely spectacular.
Even an eight year old can appreciate the beauty of a building like our capitol. I've been there four times and I'm still amazed every time I visit.
The capitol tour continued with a visit to the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Governor's Office. The kids were wide-eyed and interested as the docent relayed numerous facts and historical data.
Near the end of the tour, one of my parents introduced us to a judge (her relative) who works across the street from the capitol in the courthouse. He invited us over to see his courtroom, so, of course we took him up on it. They didn't even seem to mind when we all trudged through the doors and up the elevators to the sixth floor chambers. The kids were thrilled to be sitting in an actual courtroom. Hopefully this will be the one and only time any of them will be there.
After a brisk walk, we were all back on the bus, ready for the trip home. Students yawned and talked excitedly about all the fun they had in Lansing. I settled back into my jump seat and another hour or two of learning about Jim's life as a bus driver. By the time we returned to our school, I could write a biography about his life.
I'm hoping next time my students see the star on the map of Michigan, indicating the capital city, Lansing, they will be reminded of the wonderful day of learning and fun we had in 3rd grade.