Friday, June 28, 2013

An Impromptu Fieldtrip

"Let's go to the dump," my son said to me as we pulled out of a shopping plaza.  I had just survived a shopping trip with them to a store that had breakables every two feet and I still hadn't taken my tense shoulders down from around my ears.  "The dump?  You want to go to the dump?" I asked him, trying to process what he was asking.  "Yeah, the dump.  Granny and Papa have said they would take me but they haven't.  Do we have time to go today?" he asked.

My idea of a fun field trip is the aquarium or maybe a science museum.  The dump does not top my list.  But my sons see the world differently.  They watch the garbage truck pick up the trash each and every Saturday and want to know what happens next.  Where does it go?  There is a dump ten miles from our house and the boys always see the trash trucks making a left turn down the road towards the dump.  They are fascinated with the whole process.  So, for their sake, I decided to take the spontaneous route.  We turned left toward the dump.

The landfill is miles and miles from the main road and we were able to see alligators wading along the shore and herons swooping overhead.  The area was completely untouched and wild.  Once we entered the gates, I pulled up close to the scales and explained how they weigh the trucks.  "There's another truck, Mommy!  And another one!  But where is all the trash?"

I looked around and only saw a huge grassy hill.  I figured that was the landfill but I wasn't really sure how
the whole thing worked.  They had a building labeled, "Convenience Building" so we pulled in to see if they could answer some questions.

My oldest ran right up the a woman waiting at a glass paned slider window.  "Hello!  We just had some questions about the dump and how it works!" he said as he rested his chin on the reception counter.  "Umm...okay," the woman said giving me a look that said, "Is that really why you are here?"  I told her that yes, we were just here to ask questions and learn about the landfill.  My son was impervious to the adult interaction and forged ahead with his questions.

"Where does all the trash go?" he asked.  She pointed to the big grassy hill and explained that it is dumped on the pile and compacted all throughout the day.  At night, it is covered with a layer of dirt so that it doesn't smell.  "Is that for recycling,too?" he asked.  She explained that recyclables go another place to be turned into new things.

"Oh," my son said.  "One time, I pooped on a rug because I really really had to go and I couldn't even hold it and my daddy took it to this dump."

She laughed out loud and told him she was pretty sure that he wasn't the only one that threw poopy into the dump.  She offered to unlock the gate for us so that we could drive through the perimeter of the dump and get a closer look.  We did, and we got to see them compacting the trash as well as all the big trucks they use to do it.  At one point, my oldest made the mistake of putting down the window.  "EWWWWW!  He yelled!  That's awful!"

While the smell was awful, the experience was wonderful.  In all the time I spend planning and thinking about how to teach them things, they so often bring the opportunities to me.  Even though I had to rush around when we got home to make it to a lunch obligation, it was worth it.  They will remember what happens to trash now.  They will remember that all questions can be answered if you dig a bit deeper and ask the right people.  They will know that life, even trash, can be interesting.

What kind of things do your kids ask about that seem crazy to you?  Are there ways to bring those concepts to life for them?

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