You are old, but you are fast!

     I am still cracking up laughing at the hilarious 4th graders who were in my mission tour this week. It has been my pleasure the past few years to be a Mission San Juan Capistrano docent, leading tours for both adults and fourth graders through the grounds and buildings which tell the story of the Mission Era and Native Americans. Sometimes a certain group of students becomes unforgettable like this one. This class consisted of about 20 boys, three or four girls, and six parents. When I met them I could tell that they were excitable. I knew they had just endured a two-hour long bus ride from the inner city of Los Angeles to get to the mission. They were wiggly, pushing, talking, and jumping around. I started with my usual welcome spiel about this being a mobile classroom and being respectful etc. I sensed this group was particularly boisterous which is not unusual, this time of year with summer coming, and with a predominance of ten year old boys. I took a deep breath and got them into their imaginary "Time Machines" and we set off going backwards in time.

     We began the tour at the cow hide. I fought to keep their attention as they touched the fur and wondered if it were a bear? With so many stimulating artifacts about; a stack of dirt at the adobe brick station, the wine vat, an old cart; the boys' attention was all over the place! I thought to myself, "herding cats?"
Learning About California's History
     At the wine fermentation vat I managed to grab their awareness, and got them all stomping on imaginary grapes to make the "wine." Still boisterous; excitement was flowing out of them. As our tour continued, I noticed a shift. Their hands started popping up. They wanted to share. "I read about that in my social studies book!" "I know about the acorns..."

     So many hands in the air, so many wanting to tell me what they knew! I watched as their excitement morphed from being in a new place, to the thrill they were experiencing in making connections to their classroom lessons. It was exciting for me as I was witnessing education in real time, before my eyes. They were engaged in learning. The process was rowdy and boisterous and beautiful and inspiring. It was magic....they were applying what they already knew and they were bursting at the seams doing it. I was in every teacher's dream.
Donna Enjoys Being at Docent

     You can imagine how captivated they were by the 240 year old soot on the ceiling of the padre's kitchen, and how breathless they became staring at the golden alter in the Serra Chapel, bathed in the sounds of the Gregorian chant. As the tour progressed I could see more connections unfolding for them. By the time we got to the bells in the sacred garden they could barely contain themselves because they understood what they were seeing.

     As the tour wound down, I was on a tight time schedule needing to get them to lunch before their next activity of making adobe bricks. They knew I was rushing to pack it all in and they began saying, "We don't care about lunch. We want to stay with you Miss Donna and learn more about the mission." "We are taking you back with us!"

     As I power walked them to the lunch tables, I was laughing at their suggestions. One young man skipped up ahead to walk with me and exclaimed, "You are old, but you are fast!" That really made me smile!
The Mission Inspires Donna to Paint
     I delivered them to lunch on time and congratulated the teacher and parents on their wonderful kids. As I left the mission, I could feel a giant grin on my face. I told the front gate staff that I had just become ten years younger! The students' energy had been contagious.

     As the seasons of our lives change, I think it is important that we put ourselves in the path of new opportunities and experiences. Perhaps now is the time for us to live life a bit differently than we did during some of the earlier seasons?

     My husband is coming along well in his recovery and has gone back to coaching high school girls' wrestling. We are looking forward, laughing as we think about being old while walking fast!