It is spring in these here parts. Finally. Spring.
Grass is growing. Trees are budding. Forsythia is in bloom. Tulips are popping up. Hyacinth is a smelling. I am loving it but surest sign that spring has arrived is I saw the first face book posting of a friend’s class trip to the farm.
Kensington Metro Park’s farm center is the goto farm experience around here. I did it many, many years running with my kindergarten students. In the beginning we would take a bus and parent chaperones would meet us there. We’d tour the farm, pet the baby animals, share juice boxes and granola bars for snack and get back to school in time to catch buses home. Then we would do it all over again with our afternoon classes. When our district adopted the full day kindergarten program, we used parent drivers, added a lunch break at a playground within the park and visited the nature center as well. There we would study bees in a glass hive, take a nature walk with a ranger cautioning our five and six year olds not to pick up snakes (who actually interpreted that as an invitation TO do it) and sift through bottom crud collected in a ‘pond study.’ Standard field trip material.
It was a trip that fueled our Kindergarten class verbal/writing/art lessons for a week. Maybe longer.
The trip was an annual rite of passage every year for this teacher. Twenty two kindergarten trips to plan, carry out and enjoy. Because I love baby goats. And piglets. I looked forward to seeing them each time. However there is one year when the trip was particularly memorable.
Our district was still on half day Kindergarten sessions. My teaching partner, Ann, and I had planned the trip for a day that wasn’t looking to be a good morning but we soldiered on. We had umbrellas and rain gear. The farm center had a huge barn with a few exhibits upstairs and animal pens downstairs. The majority of the animals are situated outside along a circular walking path that allowed for leisurely walking and ample time for conversation and explanations on a good day. With ominous gray skies threatening to burst forth rain at any moment we hurried our groups through the path and into the barn. We followed in last to insure that everyone was there only to see our two classes and several wide eyed parent chaperones gathered at the sides of a goat pen. Inside the pen was an animal handler ranger…..and a hugely pregnant nanny goat giving birth.
The ranger was amazing. She was calm and reassuring, explaining everything but it was quite apparent that the nanny was having some trouble. Ann and I were literally sweating bullets. We stood there with our five and six year olds watching as the ranger tried to help the nanny. She had her entire arm up inside the goat as she talked. We were checking the time – not wanting to tear the kids away before there was a resolution to what they were watching, hoping – no praying – that the resolution was going to be a good one please please, wondering what tales about this event would be carried home and needing to leave very soon to catch the buses. The worry and stress was an incredible weight for those few minutes in our day. And outside it was pouring rain. Buckets of rain.
After a time there was some twisting and turning and pulling followed by a gush of blood and fetal fluids as TWO babies were born. It was really beautiful to see. And gross. And messy. And slimy. And the kids were properly vocally appreciative of every single aspect. Especially the blood. And the grossness.
On the ten minute bus ride back to school Ann and I created a plan. She would have a conversation with both classes in our playroom about what had happened and what they had seen. I was charged with dashing off a dittoed note to parents with that information, running it off and stuffing it into 45 backpacks before the buses arrived to take them home.
Made it in the nick of time. And we were totally exhausted as our happy little charges bounced out to their buses in the sun. And our fellow teachers in the lunchroom were hysterically regaled with our Kindergarten ‘adventures.’ And we were relieved because nothing – NOTHING – could possibly be worse than our morning trip to the farm.
And the afternoon WAS awesome. We went to the barn first to check on ‘our’ baby goats. We’d told our afternoon classes how lucky they were to be able to see babies that were just a few hours old. The sun was shining and warm. Ann went down one pathway in the circle while I followed another group in the other direction. Chickens…turkeys….ducks….bunnies….cows….horses….all out enjoying the sun and the mud from a morning storms. Ann and I met up with each other at a halfway point and congratulated each other on the wonderful afternoon. A successful field trip all around. Then we turned to see our classes gathered at the fence watching two huge pigs.
Our students were oohing and ahhhing and we were frantically internally planning ANOTHER playroom conversation and ANOTHER mad dash to write a note and stuff it into back packs. Then we heard our parent chaperone say, “Well….she’s giving him a piggy back ride. You’ve heard of a piggy back ride, right?”
Dee Vick….where ever you are……thank you.
From the bottom of our retired teacher hearts.
What a wonderful memory.