Someone came up with the idea of overnight field trips. I’m guessing this is the same person who thinks sleep-overs are awesome. Possibly same person who thinks ‘boys will be boys’ and kids should be allowed to scream in rink lobbies.
Common sense (aka the farmer) told me not to chaperone the field trip. But my overwhelming and constant desire to spy on my children trumped common sense and I signed up for what I tried to tell myself would be a fantastic adventure to break up a rather dull winter.
The farmer had suited my son and I up for this overnight adventure. He hit up Cabelas and got us sleeping bags, Therm-A-Rest Trail Pro Mattress’s, earplugs and head lamps.
When he proudly showed us our gear, I did mention to him that I was not on a backpacking trip and space was not an issue as I was driving a giant vehicle. (other chaperone’s with a similar vehicle brought actual mattresses)
I’m assuming when he bought this it had more to do with his outdoor survival plans for the summer and nothing to do with my overnight stint in Drumheller Museum.
But I thought he’s the camping expert so I’ll trust that 2” of foam/air and reviews of the product saying that it was ‘light enough for the trail, decadent enough for car camping and versatile enough for everything in between’ would get me through the night comfortably.
So at 8:30 am we head out from the school on our adventure. We form the traditional line of vehicles. In our area it is seven white suburbans all following each other like we are secret service and the 4th suburban contains a very valuable hostage.
We stick to this method of clogging up traffic with a train of seven white suburbans for safety reasons. No one will get lost. If there is a flat tire, the person following you can assist you in changing it. Pee breaks can be co-ordinated.
The thing is, times have changed. I believe we all have Google Maps now and there are a limited amount of highways in Saskatchewan so getting lost is really not an option.
The seven vehicles were all driven by women. No offense to the women who can change a tire, but I’m pretty sure if the white suburban ahead of my suburban has tire issues I’m driving by them and telling them to call OnStar and get someone to come help them.
The pee break logic is faulty because some vehicles are full of girls who might make the entire 4 hour trek with no bathroom stops where-as the vehicles with boys (such as mine) had to stop and pee on things roughly on the hour. They also like to mark their territory and were trying to claim most of southern Saskatchewan/Alberta.
We arrived at Royal Tyrrell Museum exactly one hour before we intended to. Time Zone changes always are tricky to remember.
This gave us time to get our belongings stored in the rooms they gave us and to stretch after the long trip.
The fun began with our Edutour, Alex, filling us in on the fun we were about to have and the house rules. Alex, who was extremely enthusiastic about his job and I thought was fantastic, sounded exactly like Professor Frink from The Simpsons.
The kids had a one hour lesson on the history of the Badlands, then a snack, then a one hour workshop on solving a dinosaur crime scene, then toured the museum for an hour, then supper, then another hour of measuring dinosaur bones and then a final hour in class of learning about fossils and casting them.
By this time, one of the boys in my care had just about gone down for the count. It took three Advil and a mystery pill to get him through it. (I like to fill an Advil bottle with an assortment of pills and then get a little surprise when you take one. Some options are Aspirin, Aleve, Gravol, Melatonin, Immodium – bit of an adventure sometimes. You can fall asleep, get constipated and cure your headache all at the same time)
After all these hours in the classroom we got to take them to the Aquaplex, which is Drumheller’s pool, to recharge them before we attempt to make them sleep.
We waited at the Aquaplex for a Zoomba water class to finish up and then the kids unleashed a torrent of energy on the diving board and rope swing to try to forget the whole day of learning about millions of years of history.
Truth be known I skipped out on quite a big portion of the learning. I said I was a ‘Creationist’, believed in the ‘flood’ and the earth being 6000 years old and stormed out. This gave me more time to watch people come into the museum and wonder about their lives. It should be noted that museums are a hot spot for home schoolers.
Something about museums I’ve always loved. The farmer and I have toured many a museum and just love seeing things from another time.
Bedtime was 11:00 pm (which was midnight in my timezone) and they literally shut all the lights off in the museum. Flashlights were necessary.
The kids had all set up their sleeping areas, with the girls camped around the T-Rex and I was in charge of the boys who were nestled under some sort of Therapod. I did notice some of the children actually brought blow up air mattresses, or cots, or actually memory foam mattresses.
I quietly rolled out my ‘pack’ that I could have made the trek to the summit of Everest with it was so light. What I compared it to, in a quick, light-hearted text I sent to the farmer before I nestled into my side of the hallway for the night was that I might as well have brought a piece of cardboard and curled up on that for the night.
As the hours went by, I could hear the kids sleeping and fans buzzing and saw the dinosaurs all come to life and wander around, my thoughts started to wander.
I suddenly felt a sense of camaraderie with those that have slept on hard floors before. My mind wandered to Hurricane Katrina victims who had to camp out in the Superdome or of refugees in their camps and the thought dawned on me ‘I think we are paying to do this’.
I was up before the wake up call at 7:30, mostly due to the fact that I had around 2.5 hours of sleep. The museum is a eery place in the morning. Wandering around, feeling like I didn’t belong there, stealing items from the gift shop. (I jest… the gift shop was locked up)
The kids washed up as well as they could in the public bathrooms. I took a sponge bath out of a sink and asked everyone to stop staring at me.
We headed off for breakfast, which was two hashrowns, one sausage, two pieces of bacon, one scoop of eggs and then help yourself to apples and oranges. I thought this was excellent, but some of the boys felt it was similar to being in prison where you were rationed your food, told when you could eat, drink, pee or go outside (which was never). I told them that I thought there might be a few other elements in prison that weren’t on their list.
As the kids went to the Auditorium for their last presentation, I slipped out for a stroll through the walked paths around the museum. It was a crisp and beautiful morning and the cool air woke me up and I actually had the thought that this was a fantastic idea and I would love to chaperone another overnight field trip. (this is when I should have known I was not making clear decisions and should not drive)
When the kids were done, we headed out. We stopped to climb the stairs to the top of the world’s largest man-made dinosaur (not a real one) and took some selfies.
Then we stopped at the HooDoo’s and climbed a hill. When I was young, my parents would make a day trip out to the badlands to do some hiking. We’d pack a picnic lunch and we got to climb for hours, finding caves and ‘fossils’ and cactus plants. I had so many good memories doing this when I was young that I was super excited to share it with my son and his classmates.
Turns out 11 and 12 year olds are slightly more agile climbers than myself. But I scrambled up the best that my 36 year old body could do it and the kids put a flag at the top of it and again took more selfies.
A few things I took away from this trip.
- Field trips are important. As much as us adults grumble about them they are moments that will forever be in the memory of all of the kids, even the ones that get to travel with their own families. There is something neat about doing it with your classmates.
- Whoever made the no drug or alcohol policy for the adults at the museum has never tried to fall asleep on the hard floor of the museum.
- Make as many stops as possible at anything that looks slightly interesting so the kids can explore it and take selfies. This is the only way that generation can remember anything is through their Snapchat account.
- Field trips will always be one of your best chances as a parent to spy and snoop on your child. Oh, and connect with them of course.
- Teacher’s should get paid a bonus for overnight field trips. That is above and beyond the call of duty could drive many a teacher to a ‘mental health leave’.
So, would I recommend going on a overnight trip with your child’s class? Yes… once… and then you’ll be good.