Lessons from the Field


Field trip to a pumpkin field on a beautiful fall day.
My pulse quickened. The excitement in the air was palpable. I fidgeted in my chair as we read our story and awaited the arrival of the big, yellow school bus. I was going on my first field trip in, well, a lot of years.

Really though, not that many years. When I was a college professor, I took students on many field trips. As a matter of fact, my first trip ever to a pumpkin farm was with the international students at the college where I taught. We took them to a pumpkin farm in Southwest Iowa one beautiful fall day. EG’s pumpkin farm. I still have the pictures from that adventure. We went on hay rides, wandered aimlessly through corn mazes and stayed all day and into the evening for the bonfire and marshmallow roasting.

It was a new experience for me. It was certainly a new experience for these students, and seeing this world through their many-cultured eyes was an incredible learning opportunity for me, the professor. One of the things I love most about teaching is that you get to learn so much.

One of the things I love most about parenting is that you are a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week teacher. Teachable moments happen all the time, if you are prepared to learn from them.

When I was teaching, the students who pursued undergraduate research with me always attended the developmental biology meeting at the University of Minnesota where they would present a poster of their research, meet other undergraduate researchers and attend a dinner and evening lecture. They were learning science, but they were also usually traveling to their first professional meeting, so they were also learning a little bit of professional etiquette and social skill as well. It was enlightening to see the things that surprised them,

“Wow, I’ve never stayed in a hotel this nice. This is no Motel 6.”

“We’re having dinner in an art museum?”

And of course, there were the field trips that my students took, well, to fields. We identified plants and trees and counted the animals in a transect. Or we would tour the college campus with swabs and Petri dishes in hand trying to see what kinds of life we could find on door knobs and sink handles.

So, I wasn’t sure what I would learn on this field trip to a pumpkin patch, as a chaperone to my daughter’s class of three-year-olds.

I learned that school buses haven’t changed much. The ride is still “very bumpy.” I learned that the Rock River “goes everywhere”. I learned that making all left turns is a good strategy for navigating quickly through a corn maze with four three-year-olds in tow. I learned that the perfect “big little” pumpkin is hard to find. I learned that there is nothing more satisfying than having your child, exhausted from a morning of play, fall asleep sweetly in your lap on the bus ride home.

I learned that it’s really cool for your little girl to say, “Mama, I love you. I am glad you came to the pumpkin patch today. But I don’t want to share you.”

“Don’t want to share me? What do you mean?”

“With my friends.”

“Oh, silly. Don’t worry. I am, and always will be, your Mama first.”

Most of all, I learned that it’s so nice to be loved.

© 2010 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

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