Kent Meridian Elementary

Linda Burton posting from Kent, Washington – “Who likes to travel?” I asked. Every hand went up; that means both hands from every kid; double the enthusiasm. I’m visiting Mrs Macey’s 4th grade class at grandson Sam’s school, Kent Meridian Elementary; he’d help me set up the room before this happy bunch came back from recess. “So, did you know you are traveling right now?” I continued. Summer vacation? Going home after school? “No, I mean, right NOW,” I answered back. “Right now, in this room, while you are sitting at your desks.” A young man to my right caught the idea then, “We’re orbiting the sun!” “Correcto mundo!” I praised. “We’re traveling around the sun. Every time you have a birthday you’ve circled one more time. I’ve been around the sun 73 times already!” Oo’s and ah’s, such a large number to comprehend. We discussed how many trips they’d made so far; how many miles that was; an awesome fact. Then down to earth, my Journey Across America.

I talked about my car; a picture was projected on the wall – 50 Capital Cities USA; I talked about the traveling cats; I talked about the places I had been. I passed around a handout then; columns of numbers and dates and city names. “This is my schedule,” I explained. “You can see I’ve been in Salem, and I’m going to Honolulu next. Sam’s cousin in Shoreline is going with me. After that I’ll be in your capital city, Olympia. And then, Juneau, Alaska. Guess who’s going there with me?” “Me!” answered Sam, looking around the room at his classmates, a big grin plastered on his face. “I’m going to Juneau with GMom in July.” We talked about Alaska, looked at the chart. “How large is Juneau?” I asked. 31,275! “How does that compare with the city you live in, Kent? The numbers for Kent are on the other side of the page.” A flurry of paper shuffling. Kent is way bigger! 92,411! Sam raised his hand. “I want everyone to see the pictures,” he said, referring to the photos I’d placed on that back page. “The big one of my cousin and me by the map is my neighborhood. Behind the other pictures you can see my house.” Nods from around the room.

“How did you decide on your route?” a question next. I talked about distance, and weather, explaining the plan to stay south in the winter and north in the summer months. “And there is elevation to consider too,” I added. “You live near Mt Rainier and almost every night the weather report tells us something about that. What is it?” “The snow level,” was the answer I got. “Exactly! Look at the “Elevation” column on the chart. The capital cities that are very high will be colder and have more snow.” Denver! Cheyenne! Santa Fe! “So you see,” I explained, laser-lighting their location on the map, “these are cities in the Rocky Mountains that I am visiting before the winter snows begin.” More nods.

They were looking at the poem now and we’re back to talking travel plans. “Let’s read it together,” I said, “with a LOT of enthusiasm.” And so they did!

With my head full of brains and my shoes full of feet, Oh! the places I’ll go! Oh! the people I’ll meet!

“Write your name below that,” I suggested, “and then write down THREE places you will go, at some time in your life. Pick out anywhere in the world you want to go.” Heads lowered, serious thinking going on. We went around the room, each person telling one place on their list. “Now, I want a picture of this traveling group!” Mrs Macey directed, who to stand, who to kneel, I set the tripod up. Big smiles from all; then “Oh, one more thing!” I said. I’d almost forgotten about the books.

I showed 50 State Capitols, Capitol Kitty, and a 5th grade history book, different material, different styles. “What would you like to know about the capital cities? What would you want to read?” The three answers surprised and pleased me:

(1)    “Write about the cats and let them tell what they think about each city.”

(2)    “I want to read all the facts about the city so I can see what is different about each one.”

(3)    “I want to know what I will see when I get there.”

The last bell of the day; time for them to go. A few lingered and continued to talk; to tell me where they’d been, where they wanted to go; their family; their life. “Are you happy about all the things you can do?” I asked. The news is good. See all those arms in the air.