Some readers may recall that I had the unique opportunity to participate in a summer workshop about the EPA’s R/V Lake Guardian on Lake Ontario three years ago. Part of this workshop included a commitment from me to include Great Lakes literacy in my teaching. I have done so and continue to be amazed at the depth of knowledge my students gain as they learn about the role of the Great Lakes in our lives and in the health of our world.
Several weeks ago I received an email from the Community Outreach Specialist with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant who helped organize the workshop. She informed a group of us that the Lake Guardian would be docking at Chicago’s Navy Pier for a week at the end of May and wanted to know if anyone would be interested in taking their students on a guided tour. I asked my principal what she thought about it and she agreed that it would be an awesome opportunity if we could find a way to cover the travel expenses. After several emails back and forth, funding was secured and we were able to schedule a trip to Chicago for Thursday, May 19 (yesterday). In addition to touring the ship, we were able to arrange a visit to the John G. Shedd Aquarium. (Side note: despite being a lifelong resident of Illinois, I had never before visited the Shedd!) The last task was to secure chaperones.
I had initially planned on nine adults to accompany my class, in addition to myself. Parental interest was so high, however, that I was able to secure extra tickets. We ended up with sixteen adults in all! This allowed for very small groups of students, much more freedom for students to explore the Shedd, and the hands-down quietest bus ride I have ever experienced in all my years of teaching.
Our trip started bright and early yesterday at 7:20 am. We arrived at the Shedd around 10:00 am and, after waiting for what seemed like for-eh-ver, we were able to enter the Aquarium. Students scattered with their chaperones and watched and heard and learned about marine animals until it was time to leave for lunch on Chicago’s Navy Pier. (After a visit to the Shedd’s gift shop, of course.) I was so incredibly happy that the weather cooperated! 65° F and breezy right along Lake Michigan with plenty of sunshine provided the perfect outdoor eating venue!
Following lunch, half of the class went with me to tour the Lake Guardian while the other half of the class went with their chaperones to explore Navy Pier, visiting the Crystal Gardens and enjoying the sunshine and warm air. The groups switched after about 45 minutes, except I stayed with the students on the ship so I could continue sharing my own personal experiences of working with the scientists and crew. After a group photo outside the ship, we loaded the bus and started the long ride home.
Most students are so exhausted by the end of a long field trip that they fall asleep on the bus. Not my class! They were even more excited on the way home than they were on the way up! We made it back safely, though, with the same 24 fourth graders, 1 kindergartener, and 16 adults we had when we left.
Thanks to everyone for a wonderful trip! It was a fantastic way to cap a year that has been full of inquiry, learning, growth, and trying out new things as we took healthy risks and tried to do things better than we had done in the past.
[NOTE: I have many pictures from the trip and will be uploading them and adding to this post over the weekend. Thank you for understanding.]