Second graders at my school have traditionally gone to see the Grand Caverns as their fall field trip. Since there is an unavoidable lack in attendance and if not, attention, coming from 7 and 8 year olds the day before Thanksgiving Break, we decided to schedule the big trip for this past Tuesday. A perfect plan to ease minds of parents taking their children out of school to see Grandma, and to ensure that instruction is not missed by misbehaving students going wild that a 5-day weekend is about to begin. Of course, we failed to anticipate the heavy snowfall that occurred on our outdoor field trip!
Though I've been in Charlottesville for 5 years, this was the first I'd heard of the Grand Caverns, which are over near Waynesboro. The Grand Caverns are enormous caves found inside of a large mountain over 200 years ago, and they were actually quite fascinating. The stalagmites (as in, they MIGHT some day reach the top) and stalagtites (as in, they hold on TIGHT to the ceiling) were absolutely stunning, as were the many shield formations, columns, reflection pools, and calacite coverings. It was really fascinating that such a world exists inside of a mountain!!
Of course, those of you who know me well will be asking these questions: Calvine, aren't you extremely claustrophobic? And don't you get motion sickness with the drop of a hat in the backseat of a sedan, let alone bus? Yes and yes. I stumbled off the bus, feeling absolutely awful, but managed to keep the kids in line. I was quite disappointed that we had to sit in the back of the bus with the students, since I remember teachers getting the lame (but less bumpy!) front end! I also squeezed tightly (you know, to make sure they were ok) the hands of my students when we experiences "cave darkness" and turned off all of the lights. And I threw up in my mouth a little bit when the tour guide said, about 50 minutes into the hike inside the cave, "look up at the ceiling. It is 100 feet above you. 100 feet above that is the ground." Needless to say, fresh air was very welcome!
Of course, our picnic-ing plans (in the much-needed fresh air) were foiled when a snowstorm hit mid-bite of my egg salad sandwich. It was actually somewhat welcome, as most of our fingers were about to fall off because it was so cold. We quickly wrapped everything up, hopped back on the bus, and braved the blizzard back to school! The second half of lunch was eaten at our desks while the students worked on their new Grand Caverns coloring books.
When the bell rang at 2:20, I hugged my kids goodbye, wished them a Happy Thanksgiving, and downed a Diet Coke ASAP. I was exhausted! Field trips were just as I'd remembered them -- physically uncomfortable but the perfect way to get out of school for a day! Everyone was excited and the kids really enjoyed it. I won't go into the curriculum connection because, well, there isn't much of one, but promoting curiousity and exploration is really important for young students, many of whom do not have experiences like field trips outside of school. I drove out of school that day with an "I survived the 2nd grade Field Trip!" smile across my face and headed to the airport for my own much-needed Thanksgiving Break.
For more information on the Grand Caverns: http://www.uvrpa.org/grandcaverns.htm