What We Can Learn from Horse Poop
It’s field trip season and I highly recommend that principals get out of their offices and get on the big yellow school bus to go with the kids and their teachers for a day. (The school can run without you for a day, and if it can’t, you’ve got real problems.) A day with the kids will give you a greater appreciation of what real life kids care about and how their teachers work with them everyday. And it might remind you why you went into education in the first place.
I was asked to help chaperone the second graders when they went to Colonial Williamsburg a couple of days ago. A trip back in history! Artisans and craftspeople plying their trades! Original costumes and a wealth of information about our country!
We had a wonderful day, but the history of the place kind of escaped most of the kids. What did second graders like best about their trip to Colonial Williamsburg? Squirrels, hills you could roll down, and poop. They were delighted with the horse poop in the streets, and they speculated loudly to one another about whether there could be 300-year-old poop in the jail latrines that once housed Blackbeard’s pirates. Second graders first thought it could be – gasp! – 2000 -year-old poop, but their teacher reminded them that Colonial Williamsburg depicts a settlement from the 1700s, not from the Pleistocene Era when dinosaurs walked the earth.
To pique their interest in the various arts and crafts being demonstrated, the kids did a scavenger hunt (“Find someone wearing a white wig. Find a way people traveled besides by foot. Find the stocks and try them out!”) They ran around without whining, complaining, or hitting anyone, and basically a good time was had by all.
The following day I accompanied a class of preschoolers to Colonial Williamsburg. They were immediately
interested in the wooden barrels that serve as trashcans and the gravel in front of the palace (“Michael! Stop throwing stones!”). And, it goes without saying, they loved the horse poop in the streets. They did the nursery rhyme tour, reciting “Baa Baa Blacksheep” at the farm and “Jack Be Nimble” at the candlemaker’s shop. At the well they recited “Jack and Jill,” and lying on their backs in front of the palace, they pretended it was night and sang, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” They petted the horses and threw bread in the pond for the fish. Another wonderful day.
Were these the most educational field trips I’d ever seen? No. Did I love every minute of kids asking silly questions, touching things, running through the grass, squealing with feigned disgust (horse poop again), and just being kids? Yes. Every so often teachers and administrators need to see kids in their natural habitat, which is not a classroom with books, papers, and tests. It helps keep us grounded and it helps us make better decisions when we remember what kids are really like.