Recently, I spoke to our student body of kindergarten – second grade students and a handful of parents at a Friday assembly. It happened to be beach dress up day. There were flip-flops, shorts, and tank tops galore. I dressed for the beach too, just not the same kind. As a result there were many odd looks and questions about my attire. I was sporting boots, water proof pants, a down coat, gloves, a hat, and a neck buff. When asked if I was dressed properly for the beach the audience gave a thumbs down. When told the beach I was going to would be freezing, and it happened to be snowing there at that moment, most thumbs turned up. There were still a few skeptics though.
Some students had heard a bit about my expedition, but most had not. There were several gasps when I told them I was going to the Arctic and that it was relatively near the north pole. In kid language I explained how I get to go to “teacher school” on a big ship and learn from experts, and that I wanted to take their questions with me too. I enlisted the help of our staff to email me student questions if they were able. Mrs. Nakano did one better, in addition to the email she gave me a class book with all the writing and illustrations from each of her kindergarten students. I will treasure it! Mrs. Orkney and I thought it was a great idea so we had our kids write too!
There have been many penguin questions and several animal baby related questions that are best answered by a family member. Just give it a minute, you’ll get there. Due to the abundance of penguin questions there is now a bulletin board in the main hallway displaying a world map showing my journey with Indiana Jones style red dashes. The display shows where I will be, some of the animals in the Svalbard, and the National Geographic Explorer. Way down near Antarctica there are arrows, a penguin picture, and the words, “PENGUINS HERE.”
As student questions come in they will be added to the display. I’ve seen a few staff members stop, read, and chuckle as they pass by. I love primary students and their honest but sometimes unrelated questions. Where do cheetahs live? Do sea monsters live in the ocean? There were some really wonderful questions too. How does anything survive there? Are there bees in the Arctic? How long can a polar bear breathe under water? I really want to know the answers to these questions!
Two and one half weeks and I will be on a plane bound for a month long learning adventure, and, as the students can attest, I’m ready for the beach!