Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Homeschool Field Trip: Geo Fest at the Indiana State Museum

There are many things that I have to do this month:

Girl Scout cookies. Seriously, Friends. My children have been selling ALL THE COOKIES! I am doing my darnedest to support the little lambs in their endeavors, but the fact that this requires, me, as well, to pretty much sell all the cookies... it's exhausting. We're talking keeping track of inventory. We're talking door-to-door sales, in tow behind the kids. We're talking hours upon hours of cookie booths at different locations, including set-up and tear-down. Bank deposits. Different bank deposits to cover the council's cut. Organizing the orders and inventory for the other kids in the troop. Helping with their marketing. Stressing over the inventory that I'm pretty sure isn't going to get sold. Stressing over the money that has to add up right. It's worth it, because rarely do I see my children so visibly growing in confidence and quantifiable skills as they do during this intense couple of months of cookie season. And yet... exhausted.

Trashion/Refashion Show. Yes, it IS that time again. In my free time between cookie booths, I've been busting my butt over Syd's design for this year, The Phoenix. I've finished the complete muslin, sourced what I hope will be enough supplies, last night I dyed the bodice--it didn't turn out great, since who knew that khaki overdyed with yellow becomes mostly green?--and I have until Monday to finish designing and sewing the dang thing. 

World Thinking Day. It's like a Girl Scout Geography Fair. I led my troop in our display and presentation this year, and let me just say that the kids' performance of "Farmer Liang Had a Farm," with all the animal names sung in Mandarin, AND a costume for each kid, AND a solo for each animal, was masterful. They're brilliant, the lot of them.

Etsy. I am always happy to have etsy orders, since that's how I pay for birthday presents and craft supplies, among other, more boring, things, but working on them in between cookie business and fashion show designing and planning our China booth? Yep! Exhausting.

So of COURSE with all of this stuff that I HAVE to get done this month, I took an entire day to take the kids to the 2016 Geo Fest at the Indiana State Museum

I mean, come on. Fossils! Rocks! Sand! Dirt! It's pretty much a must-do.

To illustrate how off my game I am in the overabundance of activity this month, I didn't take pictures of half of what I want to tell you about. I should, for instance, absolutely have photographed for you the flourescent rocks, on account of they were freaking amazing. A volunteer had a table of them, lit with a black light, of course, and a chart. You'd admire a rock, ask him what it was, and he'd look at his chart and tell you about it. 

Ummm.... I asked him about so many rocks that finally he just gave me the chart and let me look them up for myself.

One of the coolest specimens was a piece of coal with little lines of some kind of impurity running through it. Under the black light, the coal looked blacker than black, but those lines glowed! Later in the day, at the table with the geophysicists, they were showing us specimen after specimen of core samples, and telling us what each thing was--"This one is limestone, and this is a different kind of limestone. Here is silt, but this one is sandstone," etc. One of the geophysicists pointed to one of the samples, said, "This one is coal," and I said, "Ooh, it's got lines of impurities! Do you know if they fluoresce?"

The geophysicists were like, "What?!?" and I was like, "Dude, fluorescence!", and told them all about the guy with the black light on Level 1. As we departed to go learn about groundwater from another table, the geophysicists were making plans to go check him and his coal out.

Have I ever told you that Syd is mortally offended by the atl-atl?

There's a story there, I swear it.

The coolest things about Geo Fest, in my opinion, are the activity tables. On both levels, and in the galleries, are various tables set up with exhibits to explore, crafts to do, little activities or quizzes, and THE BEST PRIZES IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE:
That mastodon bone fragment was a prize. As was the rock that the kids made into necklaces. And some mica at another table.
 You can see one of the tables in the background here, although I actually WAS taking a super nerdy picture of this trilobyte:

And yep, the kids got to keep the microfossils that they discovered and sorted. It was awesome.

Okay, so now I have to tell you about The. Coolest. THING. EVER!!! Some guy had a sandbox up on a rolling cart. Above the sandbox, he'd rigged a Kinect camera and a digital projector. The image projected onto the sandbox was a topographical map of the actual terrain of the sandbox, and as the kids played, moving sand and shoveling and digging, the map image changed in real-time to reflect what the kids were doing!

Oh, and there was also a water table algorithm, so if a kid dug down, the hole would fill with virtual water, and you could hold a fist up as a cloud to make it rain, and water would flow, etc.

It. Was. AWESOME!!!

Will says that she wants to make one of these augmented reality sandboxes for her STEM fair project, and we actually own all of the hardware except for the digital projector, which is something that I've wanted forever, anyway. Stay tuned!

We did some of the actual exhibits in the museum--

--although I was bummed to discover that the rocks and minerals gallery, which I was super excited to steer the kids into after we'd seen some of the Geo Fest stuff, is actually off-exhibit right now for some reconstruction. Dang it!

On the way home from the museum, because I am insane, I had the kids and I scheduled to do a three-hour cookie booth outside a Wal-mart. It was kind of a windy day, so we'd decided not to use the big backdrop that the kids had made, at least, so we only had to deal with unloading and transporting the table and tablecloth and donation boxes and cases of cookies.

We got everything unloaded and moved and started setting up outside the Wal-mart entrance, and it was great. People were so excited, they were trying to buy cookies before we even had anything out. I had a couple at my table, another guy standing in line, the kids racing to finish getting all the boxes set up, when all of a sudden, the wind goes CRAZY. It starts blowing like there's a tornado coming or something, and it flips the cookie table and blows every single thing, cookies and donation boxes and the little prizes that the kids had made for customers, directly into the busy parking lot. The lid falls off of the Operation Cookie Drop donation box, and now bills are flying all over. Both kids start to bolt for the money flying around the parking lot. I scream for them to stop, and they do, but every time a new bill blows by they forget and start to bolt again and I scream at them again. A bunch of total strangers start picking up cookies from the parking lot, with cars weaving around them. I put the table back on its feet, and it immediately blows over again. I let go of it, and it starts to blow into the kids. I grab it again, look right into the face of a horrified total stranger, and just say to her, in a conversational tone, "I don't know what to do."

That woman and her husband help me fold up the table and drag it around the corner of the building, where there's enough of a break from the wind that it will at least stop trying to blow away on its own. Other total strangers bring me boxes of cookies that they've picked up for me, and help me pack them haphazardly back into the grocery carts; we can't set anything down, because if we take our hands off of it, it blows away again. The employee in charge of fetching shopping carts from the parking lot finds a couple of bills and brings them to me, then buys a box of Do-Si-Dos and lets me keep the change after I tell him about more money blowing away underneath a chain-link fence.

We got everything back into the car eventually, then we all climbed in and just sort of sat there, dazed. People are walking past us to and fro into the store, leaning against the wind, their hair blowing wildly. Finally, I said, "Did you notice, Kids? Total disaster struck us and immediately, every single person in sight stopped what they were doing and helped us. We could never have fixed all of that by ourselves. We had all the help that we needed, as much of it as we needed, and we didn't know a single person here."

That's the main lesson that I hope that the children carry with them away from this crazy cookie season. They've learned how to set a goal, how to work as hard as they can to achieve that goal, and how much more work it will take next year to try again to achieve it (despite their best efforts, they're not going to sell 1,000 cookies each this year). They've learned how to market the less-popular cookies. They've learned how to work as a team. Syd has learned how to handle cash transactions. Will has learned how to use the credit card reader.

But more importantly, they've learned that there are people in this world who will ask a Girl Scout what her favorite kind of cookie is, buy that cookie, then hand the box to her to keep. There are people in this world who will tell a kid that they've already bought five boxes of cookies from a neighbor kid, then, after she says to them, "Thank you for supporting Girl Scouts!" (I taught them that!), will turn back around and buy another five boxes of cookies from them, too, just because they're polite. There are people in this world who will ask a Girl Scout a question, stand patiently smiling while she works out her answer, stay there while another child figures out the change, continue to stay while a third kid is reminded of what to say at the end of a transaction and then still leave with a smile, several minutes later. There are people in this world who will buy cookies for soldiers whom they'll never meet.

And there are especially people in this world, a lot of people, who will, when walking into a busy store on a busy afternoon after a long day at work, see the cookie booth of a woman and two Girl Scouts practically explode in the wind, stuff fly everywhere, and will pick up all that stuff in a parking lot, around the wheels of cars, and bring it right back to her. Including cookies. Including money.

I hope that I'm that kind of person. I hope that my kids will grow up to be that kind of person, too.


Tina said...

Great post, Julie! I try to be the type of person that will help another out and I also try to teach Emma to help others. We are not perfect, but we manage to do some good :0)

I can't wait to bring pick Emma up from Gramma's so we can do all the things here! There is a cool looking science center here, and art classes, and parks to hike at, and so much to do!

And we also have chickens to order, a yard to fence, and a coop to build. March is going to be our busy month I think.

julie said...

I've been gradually learning, I think, that the best teaching moments for why we should help others come when others help us. I mean, the kids and I volunteer at the food pantry every week, so that's old hat, and the idea of feeding people tends to take a backseat to the immediate tasks of washing produce bins and stocking shelves and repackaging donated bread. But when we're in distress, with a flat tire or a missing cat or an overturned cookie booth, and the kids see how willing total strangers are to go out of their way to help us, that feels like it impacts them so much more. I think that knowing how it feels to BE helped is one of the best motivators for wanting to help.