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Month: May 2010 (page 1 of 3)

nature kid

The warm days of spring are the best. Since the early part of April (and maybe even March) Aidan excitedly discarded his winter apparel and has been clad in nothing but shorts and sandals, and all he wants to do is spend time outside–exploring the backyard and digging in the dirt and uncovering all kinds of things of nature. Today was definitely this type of day. We spent a good portion of the day off the beaten track in a local forest preserve. We found a creek bed where Aidan happily took off his sandals and plunged his feet into the oozing mud and then waded in the pebbly creek and climbed on fallen trees. He was in his own paradise! And even when we came home he made his own little mud bath spa on the side of our house. It is these kind of days that take me back to a time in my own youth, specifically to the time spent up in [singlepic=594,325,325] Me at 6yrs old, Aidan’s current ageWisconsin at our cottage by the Rock River. It’s funny how memories work, I can picture certain things so clearly–the sights and sounds even the smells; but other things are just muddy, vague images that fleet in and out of my mind.

The inside of our cottage is like that for me. I can remember certain areas of it. I remember the brightly lit kitchen with it’s large windows overlooking the river and the smells and gurgles of the old fashion peculator brewing coffee for all the adults. But other areas of the inside I can hardly recall. What did the bathroom look like, were there two or three bedrooms–I just cannot remember. It’s when these memories escape me that I especially wish my parents were around still so I can ask them how things really were. But in the end I guess I have to trust in my own vision of how things were.

What I do remember the most about my time at the cottage is being outside and enjoying nature and feeling connected to the earth. I remember walking barefoot on our property, running down the hill from the gravel road, hiking on the trails and in the woods, fishing with my dad, and picking wild berries with my mom and my “aunt” (she wasn’t a blood relative aunt, but one of those family friends that was so close that you just called her aunt). I remember running and jumping off the pier and swimming with my cousins in the rocky river. I can still smell the bonfires and taste the roasted marshmallows. (It’s no wonder that one of my favorite all time smells is the smell of leaves burning and this is due to autumns at the cottage.) I remember the huge trees all throughout our land and the one that held my swing and the smaller ones that I climbed. I remember exploring the abandoned A-frame on the top of the hill (at least my cousins and I thought it was abandoned). So many memories and so much fun.

When I am reminded of these memories I find myself wanting similar experiences for Aidan. I want him to have an expansive area to just explore and feel free to roam. He is definitely my nature boy and my tree hugger and I want him to really feel this connection to the earth and to all of nature.

who knew that $320 can get you a llama, a goat, chicks, and bees

What a day! Our Earth Scouts group finished up their unit on Economic Justice today earning two badges–one for the unit and a smaller one for the reading fundraiser that they have been working on for the past several months. The reading fundraiser, called Read to Feed, was part of our work to raise money for Heifer International. In addition to the Read to Feed that the kids were participating in, we also held a lemonade stand last week in which all the proceeds went to Heifer. It was exciting today to collect all the money–we ended up with a total of $320!! This money will go to buy animals for Heifer International to help end poverty and provide greater self-reliance for families and communities around the world. We shared with the kids information on the animals that can be selected from Heifer, along with the cost of each animal and what they can provide for the family, and then we let the kids decide which animals we should purchase. They had a great time voting and selecting animals. After much discussion, and persuasive arguments, from many of the kids we ended up purchasing a llama, a goat, a flock of chicks, and a beehive! (Aidan was a bit disappointed that his choice for a water buffalo was outvoted for a llama, but who knows, perhaps Aidan will find a new way to raise the $250 to purchase a water buffalo (if anyone wants to donate for his cause please let us know). :-) The kids were thoroughly thrilled to be able to contribute so much to people and communities that we have never met–all in the hopes that we will help make a difference in the world. This is one of the biggest parts that I love about being a co-facilitator for Earth Scouts–the way the children are so eager to help and often see no boundaries in what we can do to make this world a better place. Now shouldn’t we all follow their lead and go out there to spread peace and hope!?!

good-bye pomp and circumstance

Last night was the commencement ceremony for the 2010 class of graduates of the college where I work. I have to say it was a difficult experience. As a faculty member, I am obligated (by contract) to attend the graduation ceremony each year in May, so I’ve seen several and will likely see many more in the years to come. For a student, this particular graduation is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. It’s a big deal, and it should be. Many have worked very hard to accomplish this feat. They invite their friends and families to proudly watch on as they take their [singlepic=593,300,300]turn to walk across the stage. I think this is a pretty important event–a proud moment, one that should be honored and respected. Some, however, don’t seem to think the same way, or at least they don’t act as if they do.

Each semester I’m a little bit irked by the cavalier attitude with which many faculty approach this graduation exercise. Now, I do understand that for many faculty this is an annual exercise to be experienced an average of 30 or so times during the course of one’s career. The exercise is always the same, so we (and I do include myself here) try to find ways to have fun with it, and it’s not a bad thing. It’s a celebration, after all, not a funeral. We should be having fun, celebrating the end of another academic year and the success of so many students. But on the other hand, I see that we faculty sometimes forget ourselves as we engage in a bit too much side chatter, laughing, and even–yes–texting (this is something I don’t do) during the actual ceremony. These kinds of things bug me. It shows a lack of interest and I find it disrespectful to the students. But in the end, I guess I can live with it, and honestly I don’t think the behavior is that noticeable. I really don’t mean to sound like a big ol’ fuddy-duddy here. I can appreciate a game of shoe bingo during graduation as much as the next prof. I really can, but last night’s graduation was different. The irksome behavior was taken to a new level, and it’s not the faculty that really got to me; it was the students and members of the “platform party”–the bigwigs sitting on the stage.

The commencement speaker was Dr. Martha Kanter, Under Secretary of the US Department of Education. Her speech was fine in my estimation–perhaps not the strongest, most focused, most relevant commencement address I’ve ever heard–but it was fine, and she traveled across the country to address the graduating class. But the class was outright rude to here. Granted the crowd may have been growing impatient (as she arrived nearly an hour late due to her flight being delayed), but still, give a person some respect. All through her address the class chattered audibly almost to the point where she was competing to be heard. Then, when she uttered the phrase “in closing” the entire class began to clap and cheer before she even finished her sentence, let alone the 3 minutes or so of her speech that followed the “in closing” transition. I was embarrassed. Who were these graduates and what was this “honor” being bestowed upon them?

But, honestly, that was not the end of it. In the aftermath of this embarrassing spectacle, members of the platform party responded with their own flavor of disrespect. As students each took a turn walking across the stage to receive his or her much awaited degree, I observed a vice president nodding off in his chair and a board member attempting to not-so-discretely send text messages via his BlackBerry. I found this disheartening. Certainly students will learn from those placed before them as role models–placed front and center–as students take their turns walking past. Good-bye pomp and circumstance. It’s a brave new world, I suppose. Or maybe I’m becoming an old fart who just doesn’t get kids, administrators, and trustee members these days.

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