Last Friday I got to ride in a big yellow school bus. It’s been a couple of years. I’ve gone on numerous field trips with my kids when they were in elementary school. This time, it was with my son’s sixth grade civics class.
Initially I thought, Oh, how easy! They’re not 5-year-olds. I don’t need to hold anyone’s hand or tell them to stop running around or remind them to keep their hands to themselves. And I didn’t have to do any of those things. But I did have get to listen to them talk. Eleven-year-old conversations are quite interesting. They want desperately to appear grown-up and yet at the same time can’t quite stop acting juvenile. We went to an art museum to relate certain works with the topics they are studying about in government. We looked at photographs of Martin Luther King, Jr. and busts of several former presidents and paintings by American Indians. Sculptures ended up being one of the topics of (whispered) conversations – specifically the nude ones.
All the students were divided into groups of about 15, and each group was assigned a parent or teacher and then a museum docent as well. Our docent was a woman of around 70 who did an excellent job of making the tour interesting with her descriptions and explanations; she kept the children involved with questions and also answered their many queries. When the question came up as to why there were nude statues, she handled it quite well. She asked if any of them had ever tried to draw a person and asked if it was difficult. Yes, some replied. She explained that the human body is hard to create in art and that ancient artists took the challenge seriously. It seemed to hush the whisperings, for then.
On the ride back to school, I listened as a boy told his teacher and me about the truck he wishes to have when he is old enough to drive, the body and the engine and how he already knows how to change oil and tires. He kept us entertained for quite a while, telling us about vehicles we saw on the road as well. Occasionally, I glanced to the seat behind him, where two boys were whispering and giggling about something. They would glance back at me and stop until I looked away, and then the whispering and giggling would start up again – probably discussing those statues again.