Our Wednesday and Friday morning field trips, like great stories, have engaging beginnings, complicated middles, and surprising and satisfying endings. A new class of public school students visits us for a field trip on these mornings, and, depending on the theme (selected by the class teacher), students have the chance to write alongside our volunteers and interns, often goaded by our dolorous, querulous editor Dr. Blotch.
To help give you a glimpse into our wild field trip world, our three Winter/Spring 2016 field trips interns have written snapshots about their favorite field trip stories, anecdotes, and highlights.
Jacki Dotts: A Day in the Life of a Field Trip
It’s a Wednesday morning and it’s 9:30am. But of course our volunteers and staff are confused and believe it’s Tuesday. The Field Trips director and the three Field Trips interns furiously set up Dr. Blotch’s lab for a Tuesday tax seminar.
At 10:00am, the bus arrives and the eager students file in through the Robot Shop and into the lab. After setting their coats onto the golden couch, the students file into the lab and take a seat on the floor. One of our volunteers types on the screen and takes notes on the seminar. The notes are projected onto the wall for all to see. Everyone is in place and ready to being the seminar.
The seminar leader begins the discussion by asking students what they know about taxes — how many of them have full time jobs? Have they completed their W4s, or have them brought them incomplete? The students eagerly answer (often admitting that they do, in fact, have full-time jobs in addition to school!). As the leader continues, a loud, irritating screech that startles everyone in the room. The screech is followed by an ominous voice: our evil editor and boss, Dr. Blotch, calling remotely to reprimand everyone for everything. Dr. Blotch, after rudely calling the leader by the wrong name for the fourth time, interrupts and says that they’ve got the date all wrong, it’s Wednesday and everyone knows that there is a story due on Wednesdays. Dr. Blotch demands that the leader deliver a story by noon, or else their job will be terminated. The leader implores the class for help: how can a story be written in so little time without teamwork?
And so the field trip continues and grows more interesting with each step. The process and production of field trips at 826michigan are what make our program stand out. The premise for why the students are here to write changes the field trip from just another place to sit and put words on a piece of paper, and this changes and challenges the students to be different from just another group of young writers. When writing in our field trips the students have something at stake — they’re writing to save jobs and to become published authors. They are no longer just young writers; they are heroes tasked to impress the impossible to impress Dr. Blotch. They leave our lab with a published copy of their work and the confidence to continue as writers. Not only do they leave with all of these things, they leave with an amazing memory of triumph. Even the most reluctant writers and readers have a fun time conquering the evil Dr.Blotch and leave with a sense of accomplishment and a new outlook on writing.
Montgomery Jones: On Student Support and Publication
While we were entertaining a super enthusiastic class of 8-year-old students and keeping the evil Dr. Blotch at bay, I met a young man who took great interest in being of assistance to me in particular. He didn’t want to just solve the mystery (Dr. Blotch’s diary was stolen and our help was enlisted to right this wrong), he wanted to ensure that I got to keep my job (I’m an intern, but same thing), as Dr.Blotch threatened to fire me.
Sure, I’ve met plenty of students who want to help solve the mystery or call Dr. Blotch a big fat meany head (their words, not mine — you-know-who is likely reading this) but never one who latched on to ensuring that my well-being was taken care of. This writer was sweet and kind. I didn’t really notice the level of his attentiveness until after the field trip when he looked me in the eye and asked, “This means you get to keep your job, right?” I essentially rewound the whirlwind that was this particular field trip and realized that this young man was not just figuring out this interactive literary mystery for himself, he was doing it for me too.- Montgomery Jones
Another favorite part of field trips for me is assembling the books! I am majoring in children’s literature so I can work in publishing and make a difference in the diversity of content being produced. It’s such a privilege to work with these young authors as they see themselves in the stories being written. I love watching lightbulbs go off in their heads as they learn to lean into and trust their ideas. Handing the physical copies over to the students or their teacher incites a feeling of elation as pride surges through me on behalf of my new friends.
Hannah Bates: A Turn in Dr. Blotch’s Life-Sized Poetry Board Game
A student, Eva, rolls the dice and everyone is eager. During the Life-Size Poetry Board Game field trip, the squares of the game board represent the different poems our team will write that morning: ekphrastic poems, limericks, haikus, acrostics, and odes.
After deciding on a spunky team name, we head on over to the life-size board, created with multicolored carpet squares in a plus sign pattern. Eva rolled a four, and Stephan moves our silver painted, candelabra-esque game piece to a blue square: blue denotes an acrostic! The students dash back to our table excitedly.
De’Veon picks a card from a stack of index cards with a variety of words on them. He chooses “sand dune” and the students take some prompting but begin to think of creative, clever ways to describe a sand dune in an acrostic poem. Our goal is to use poetry to see the world in a new way, and the students push one another to think of unique lines. Tiara starts us off:
Small rocks in a hill
From there, each student gets to write their own line.
All different colors of sand combine into one
No one can see over it
Dry as a desert
Dune looks out over the water
Until the sun sets
Now it is dark
Henry reads the poem aloud to the team and then presents it to the “judge” with the ring of a bell. Our poem is approved, and Henry returns back to the writing table, triumphant. It’s Cameron’s turn to roll the dice, and we all skip back over to the game board to continue playing. There are more poems to write, and with any luck, the students will leave the writing laboratory with a new knowledge (and love) of poetry.