Once again on that first day the school writhed and pulsated with activity, but this time the entrance was less a gaping maw and more a beckoning stone archway, inviting me inside. As I entered the classroom I knew already that the Second Grade was going to have a whole new structure. Our desks seemed to be arranged into rows as opposed to columns, we had exited the chugging train of first grade and had boarded an airplane, ready to journey around the world.
The familiarity of the halls and the ragged torn posters, passing the cork boards laden with annual reminders and notices, the smell of the building; suddenly I realized that this venue for learning had become a home. My first grade foundation left me confident and comfortable, allowing the possibilities for second grade to flourish. First Grade began to develop a sense of higher education and shoring of internal structure, while Second Grade began to turn outward towards the world as a whole.
We continued with the project motif, which this year incorporated the idea of the world and outward understanding. However, the intensity was turned up. Each part of the Earth served as a home to different climates, and as a result, different types of creatures. This was an appealing concept, lions and antelope in Africa, Polar bears, whales and foxes in the Arctic. Nature was compartmentalized, it was simple and easy. Our task was not.
A large blank rain forest made of cut paper had been pasted onto the wall outside of our class room, our job was to fill it with life. Not only were we to add an animal, but it was to be accompanied by a list of information pertinent to the animal. I was a little skeptical of this “research” program, up until now I had gotten by with my process of applying skills, finding new information was a frightening foray into the vast unknown. The setting of our research even mirrored this quality, the Computer Lab was a cold and mystifying place.
First, we registered into the school’s electronic infrastructure, then it was only a few clicks to get to the World Wide Web. Typing was tedious and slow, but the only way to get anywhere was to let Google know what you wanted. Pages blipped in and out, my meticulously kept notes gradually grew. I was in the zone, perhaps to much; the jerk back to reality from the haze of pixels and animal facts was painfully sudden.
After a few of these sessions, we began to process our information and a few animals started eking out their places in the rain forest. We learned about other ecosystems in the more traditional classroom fashion, but with the clean and packaged rain forest display I got a more complete understanding of how the parts form the whole and how my little tree frog made his contribution.
As a grand finale to our flight around the world a blow out Chinese New Year party was held in Ms. Hazen’s room. Desks were pushed to the side, clearing room for the feast. The room was draped with red streamers and Chinese lanterns, but the focal point of the room was the steaming arrangement of food in the center. Juicy egg rolls, salty sweaty rice, it was food ecstasy. Muching, laughing and socializing we joked about the recent happenings on the playground.
Aside from our lighthearted conversation there was also a strong connection that had not existed before. My classmates somewhere along the way had become friends. The stories we told and recalled were from outside of school, relationships had stepped beyond the stage of casual acquaintances. Just like discovering the seven continents my own personal world had been expanded.
I was a tree frog contributing to my ecosystem. I worked with everyone around me, and as the tree frog furrowed out nourishment I needed only smiles; and a network that has survived til this day.