Anyone searching for a sign of spring need look no further than the backpack of any elementary school student.
Somewhere among the handful of dead bugs that your child swears is a science project, attached to the banana you packed in his lunch three weeks ago, are the field trip permission slips.
It's spring, all right. And in Glen Burnie, that means it's time to visit the Smithsonian.
Last week, in a moment of supreme parental martyrdom, I accompanied the Point Pleasant Elementary School fifth grade on its annual foray to our nation's capital. I decided to offer my services as a chaperon because . . . well, I can't think of thereasons now, but they seemed pretty good when I volunteered.
The adult chaperons were divided into three categories: the teachers, financially compensated professionals; the aunts, uncles, friends, who could enjoy the trip in the knowledge that when it was over, they would not be taking any of the children home; and the parents, who would spend the day with the children, take them home just as they got really tired and cranky, and not get even a McDonald's gift certificate for their efforts.
Highlights of the afternoon included:
* Repeated attempts to redirect the five boys in my group away from the semi-nude mannequins depicting life in early Inca cultures and toward themoon rocks.
* Frantically searching the Museum of Natural Historyfor a 10-year-old boy last seen clutching a dollar bill that had to be spent at the gift shop immediately. By the fifth time he wandered off, I was convinced the teacher had assigned him to our group as punishment for the Christmas gift I gave her.
* A lunchtime lesson inthe feeding habits of birds: Will sea gulls and pigeons try to eat aCheese Curl snack that has been strategically placed in the hair of an adult chaperon?
It was a very long day.
There are over 6,100 Peace Corps volunteers serving in 90 countries all over the world. But the fourth- and fifth-grade social studies students in Helen Rose Tucker's classes have a special interest in just one of those volunteers -- Emily Gage, who is serving in Poland.
The students from Arthur Slade Regional Catholic School are corresponding with Gage as part of the Peace Corps' Worldwise program. Over 2,000 schools nationwide are matched with a volunteer to promote the students' interestin geography, stimulate international awareness and demonstrate the value of volunteer service.
"The idea is to expose our kids to diverse people and cultures of the world," said Tucker.
Did the students know what the Peace Corps was before the project began?
"Amazingly, yes. I was really surprised," said Tucker. "In every single class, they knew it was about going to other countries and helping the poor. They're more worldly than I expected."
There are four aspectsof the program: the volunteer serving as a link to the classroom; anexchange of correspondence between the classroom and the volunteer; resource packets of information about the country where the volunteeris stationed; a newsletter in which participating schools exchange ideas.
As part of the resource packet, the students watched a videoabout life in Poland. The Slade students were particularly interested in Polish schools.
"They thought Polish schools were very strict. The children (in Poland) stand as they respond to the teacher, and every single response is graded. My students didn't like the idea that everything they said would be graded," said Tucker, laughing.
The program will continue at the school throughout the year.
Incelebration of Black History Month, the Glen Burnie chapter of Jack and Jill presented the children in the organization with certificatesin their first awards program, "A Salute To Our Youth."
Jack and Jill is a national organization that promotes the black family. The 2-year-old Glen Burnie chapter has a membership of 17 families with more than 35 children.
Christine Davenport, president of the chapter, said one of the group's goals is "to encourage the children to reach for and achieve excellence in their various schools, churches and communities."
"This program (A Salute to Our Youth) was to honor kids who are not recognized in the school. Their involvement is in community activities, including church, scouting and sports programs," said Davenport.
Three of the children received recognition for theiroutstanding performance in sports: Jason Smith, basketball; Vonnita Pinkett, first team all-county basketball; and Amiel Morris, football.
Davenport presented certificates to the following children for their community activities: Brian Butler, Steve Butler, Ashleigh Davenport, Dominik Davenport, Fred Davenport, Michelle Durrett, Natalie Durrett, Kimberly Giles, Tamara Giles, Benneth Henderson, Amiel Morris,Jihad Morris, Vonnita Pinkett, Courtney Scipio, Kia Scipio, Faith Showell, Jason Smith, Jasmine Thomas, Kristin Thompson and Brooke Wilson.