Today I took the gifted 2nd and 3rd graders to a local area museum and planetarium. I have wonderful memories of the planetarium near where I grew up and assumed this would be similar, just smaller scale. The place was easy to find as it was on a college campus. The museum was located near the center of the campus and the planetarium was just a short walk away in the mathematics and physics building.
As a kid, the planetarium always gathered lots of adoration and excitement. We often explored the science museum for 3-4 hours prior to standing in line to enter the planetarium theater. While standing in line, there were always these cool lights that caused all white pieces of clothing to “glow” neon blue. The presentation inside the planetarium was educational and informational. So, today, when I discovered we’d be going to a planetarium, I was very excited to see it and compare to the one I knew as a kid.
We arrived about 9 am and the kids took in the museum first. I wandered the campus and peeked in the museum. It was nothing spectacular or impressive – just a few tables of artifacts and like 2 interactive exhibits. I walked on over to the planetarium and discovered a pretty neat lab of about 30 feet wide with a domed top. The small scale for a small university was expected. I briefly met the planetarium presenter (FrootLoop) before the children started trickling into the building. My impressions first off were that she was a little batty and somewhat scatterbrained, but I thought she would have it together for a presentation to 2nd and 3rd graders. I was wrong.
The presentation was absolutely AWFUL! FrootLoop began with reprimanding her two college student “assistants” in front of the children. She then insisted on rambling more about the space station and upcoming night sky events (along with other planetarium propaganda/fodder) and space exploration through NASA rather than point out a few constellations, speaking about the stars, and then conducting a “Solar System Walk”. She used a lot of words that were way over the education level of a 2nd and 3rd grader. I could tell that most of the kids were being polite, but were getting really restless after her third different explanation of the Greek Mythic History of the stars and their origins. The teacher kept asking about different parts of the program (Solar System Walk) and FrootLoop answered, “We’ll do that later…” or “But first I want to tell you about this real quick…”
I wandered out of the planetarium about 11:20 am as the teacher wanted to be on the road about 11:30 and I wanted to get back to the bus with time to unlock and sweep it off a bit before the children ambushed the bus in a mad dash to get away from the place. The teacher boarded the bus and as she sat down she remarked to me, “That was absolutely awful!” When I questioned her about it, she stated, “The whole day was one long boring lecture.”
Apparently, the museum gave them a really long lecture about Native American artifacts and they didn’t have an opportunity to complete the activity they really wanted to do which was a simulated fossil dig, classification, and identification activity. Then as they wandered over to the planetarium, the teacher was simply expecting about a 15-20 minute presentation that would include the simple things such as the make up of stars, 3-5 constellations, pointing out the Milky Way, and then talking about the order of the solar system before going outside and doing a “Solar System Walk” in which they get to actively distance out the solar system on a small scale. Instead, she got FrootLoop and her assistants who slept through most of her lecture. FrootLoop also insisted on showing the kids her necklace made from the rock of something in space. I left prior to that catastrophe.
The museum provided the children with “Grab Bags” of useless toys, trinkets, and annoying noisemaker whistles. Apparently the museum even messed this up too and didn’t have enough of the type of bags they were supposed to have. I think there were three different types of bags a teacher could request.
We headed over to a Chick-Fil-A for lunch and then went back to the school. As we were driving back, the teacher and I continued to discuss the poor quality of the field trip, and she mentioned, “I’d have to say, the best thing about today was going to Chick-Fil-A and having you as a driver.” Overall, the educational value of the fieldtrip bombed, but the kids I hauled today were the most well behaved children I’ve EVER hauled on a field trip. I made it a point to tell the teacher that I was incredibly impressed with their wonderful behavior. I think she is going to try to request me as a driver for future trips. We’ll see how that pans out.
The Bus Driver