I stood next to the school bus and waited. I was holding a large brown bag from Trader Joe’s that was filled with smaller bags from so many children. I was a parent volunteer assigned the rank of group leader, and as such my responsibilities included holding the respective lunches of the kids that I was leading. They would follow their lunches anywhere.
The excitement of a pending field trip filled the sweet morning air. It smelled like peanut butter and jasmine.
My son, who usually has a great deal of trouble waking up for school, had set his alarm an hour earlier than normal (where normal equals off) and had been ready to go by the time I woke up. My younger son had done the same thing a week prior on the day of his field trip. These are the days they don’t dare miss.
Last week had been an outing to the library followed by lunch in a park. It wasn’t the most extravagant of field trips, but that morning it was the hottest travel destination a six-year-old boy could possibly imagine.
My oldest, however, was visiting the Getty Museum, and that seemed slightly more highbrow than any school-related field trip I had ever been invited to attend.
Parks and libraries are fantastic fun, but few offer the kind of impact one might receive from gazing upon their first Van Gogh. I couldn’t help but wonder if such things would even register with a busload of third graders who were itchy and contagious with feverish cases of summeritis. Still, there was something to be said for the opportunity.
My wife and I took a trip to Boston one year just before the local schools were released for the summer, and there were groups of kids everywhere. They were reenacting moments of U.S. history here, being bored by U.S. history there, and field tripping all over the Freedom Trail. I remember being very impressed by the opportunities that those kids had to experience such amazing things. We felt like our own childhood experiences paled in comparison. That is why I was thrilled for my son to visit such a prestigious museum.
It turns out that he was more interested in the journey than the destination. They all were.
That’s not to say that they weren’t interested, polite, or attentive, they were, but, and this is just my opinion, anyone that views a Cézanne for all of seven seconds isn’t really letting the magic of the moment set in.
For some perspective, consider that they looked at plastic rulers in the gift shop for 10 minutes. I had to pull them away.
In fact, if not for the Herb Ritts exhibition that is currently running at the Getty I’m not sure they would have commented on any of the art at all. The Ritts collection added much to the conversation, most of which I caught in whispers about bare bottoms and assorted boobage, but, hey, they’re eight, and at least they were reacting.
The experience left me to wonder, does it really matter where kids go on field trips or is the benefit in the simple act of going?
I don’t know, but my son saw his first Monet, and I was there to gaze upon him as it happened. That’s a memory worth having, and it will last so much longer than those plastic rulers.