We crammed onto a school bus last Wednesday. There were 54 seven and eight year olds and 15 adults. Our bus was packed with two second grade classes. The other two classes would be going the next day.
It had been cold and rainy the day before but today the weather was perfect. It wasn't too cold or too hot. The sun was shining in a cloudless sky and the wind was still. It was a perfect day to go to the apple orchard and arboretum.
The kids could scarcely contain themselves. As we got on the freeway, one of my students shouted, "I live over there!" Another student began to tell me about how he lived in the country and there were wild animals like tigers and lions in his back yard. He began to relate fantastic stories about his adventures. I smiled and expressed my wonder at his amazing courage in facing all of those lions and tigers and bears every day. There was a little tug at my heart as I thought about his real life. He's a ward of the state and struggles desperately to try to learn basic skills. I think about his future and pray.
As we traveled out of the city and into the country, shouts of excitement filled the bus. They yelled about the animals, the beautiful fall foliage, the barns, the lakes and the Canadian geese. They yelled about going to the apple orchard. They yelled about the picnic they were going to have at the arboretum. They laughed, sang, clapped their hands and stamped their feet. They were so excited they could scarcely contain themselves. They just couldn't keep quiet about it and they didn't care who knew about it. They didn't care about what anyone else thought. Life was wonderful at the moment and this was the moment they were living in.
When we arrived at the apple orchard, 27 children followed me. We went to the apple house and learned about pollination. We learned about the history of apple growing in Minnesota. Did you know apples would not originally grow in Minnesota? It was too cold. Every tree planted would die. A man even tried to grow a species from Siberia. It survived but after waiting ten years, he was rewarded with the most terrible tasting apples he'd ever eaten. Finally after much perseverance an apple was produced which he named Wealthy after his wife. Today, Minnesota produces many fine varieties of hardy apples. My all-time favorite is our very own Honey Crisp. I eagerly wait for fall each year so I can get some from the orchard.
We went out into the apple orchard and learned about how new varieties of apples are developed. We learned about methods to deal with pests. We learned apples can come in a variety of colors such as purple, pink and orange as well as the usual green, gold and red.
We went into the apple barn and made cider. We munched on chestnut crabapples. Those are another favorite of mine. We watched apples being sorted, weighed and packed. I posted a picture of that in my gallery as that is one picture which only shows the back of the heads of some of my students rather than their faces.
We headed out to the arboretum for a picnic. They exclaimed over the scarecrow exhibit and shouted when we spotted some chipmunks. They started to race after them and then someone started to scream as they spotted a small garter snake. In a moment however, the fear was gone and everyone crowded around that poor snake. I hate snakes and I'm very glad I don't live in an area where there are poisonous snakes! However, even I was fascinated as I viewed the snake through the eyes of my students. Everyone was very quiet as the watched the snake slither off. He was undoubtedly very glad he escaped unscathed!
After a long day, we headed back to school. We munched on apples as we wrote and drew about what we had seen and learned that day. I marveled at how beautiful and alive the world is when we see it though the eyes of children.
My students take me at my word. If I say it then it is true as far as they're concerned. My children love to tell me about everything they see and do. They love to slip little pictures into my hand or give me hugs and smiles. Although many of them have very hard lives, they're amazingly optimistic and resilient. Each day is a new one with all sorts of possibilities. They're ready to explore it. They can be angry one moment and then suddenly they're more than willing to forgive. They're eager to learn and take joy in sharing their knowledge. They're eager to celebrate their success with others.
May I learn to see each day with the eyes of a child. May I put my complete trust in my Heavenly Father the way children put their trust in me.