Saturday, May 19, 2012

Can These Bones Live?

"Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.

"Thus saith the the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live." --Ezekiel 37. 4-5  KJV, Holy Bible.

Here, for your reading delectation, is a composite description of a fourth grade class's field trip to the La Brea Tar Pits in L.A.  While I didn't go on the field trip, I had the honor of helping them organize and edit their reports:

"The La Brea tar pits are very large and thousands of years old with thousands of ice age mammal bones of mammals that got stuck in the tar.  Tar is actually asphalt mixed with old woods.  It is like street or blacktop.  My dad said we had tar on the roof of our house and I thought that was very weird and scary. 

"In the tar are thousands of bones like dire wolves (they hunted in packs), long-toothed lions, and electric mammoths.  If you were a predator with really big teeth you might think you were BAD but you would not think you were so BAD if you got sucked down into the tar, now would you?  For example, the dire wolfs got greedy trying to eat animals already stuck in the tar so they got stuck too!  This is called ironic.

"There is no evidence of man living in L.A. 11,000 years ago with the other creatures.  There were no buildings, or celebrities like Brad Pit or Lady Gaga just mammals, but humans like Justin Bieber are mammals too.   I wish all bullies could get sucked down into the tar pits.

"My favorite thing at the tar pits was the bar thing they let you pull on to see how hard it was to get out of all that tar.  Then I got worried when the scientist in the museum said that Fresno where we lived has lots of asphalt.  What if it melted and we all got sucked down with our skeleton hands sticking up out of the blacktop?

"The thing I'll never forget is when we all started dancing like crazy outside the museum because a hobo was playing the banjo.  It took the teachers a long time to get us into the bus.

"So don't fall into a tar pit!  See ya!"

After the reports were mostly finished, we had some time to kill before recess, so I winged it by asking the kids, "Does anyone have anything they want to say about bones or skeletons or dead animals?"  Hands flew up.  

"There was a dead dog behind our house in the field but someone took it away before you could see the skeleton."

"That was probably animal control or the health department," I said.

"I was a skeleton for Halloween"

"Halloween is evil," said Jerry, a Jesus Camp kid.

"You are evil, stupid."  (At this point I was supposed to step into stern, well-organized and controlled teacher mode, but sometimes you have to sense when the surreal is coming and just let it flow).

A tiny, bespectacled girl named Alicia asked, "Mr. H?  Why did God make our skeletons so scary?"

"Well. . ."  At this point what was I supposed to do?  Convert into kid's language concepts like fear of death, Thanatos, the Day of the Dead in Mexico, the sublime, the death drive, etc?   I found myself saying the following:

"I don't think skeletons are scary.  Your body has to have an under structure, like a frame in a building.  So whoever planned our bodies had a good idea.  And skeletons can be funny or exciting.  Did you guys ever see a movie called Jason and the Argonauts?   No?  Did you know that the xylophone is the official music of the skeleton?"  Now I was babbling.

"What are you talking about?"

"You'll understand when you're older."

Tiny Alicia said, "I had a dream that my skeleton jumped out of me and was chasing me around."

"Like Peter Pan's shadow?" 

"I'm really scared of my skeleton inside me," continued Alicia.

"I don't think you have a skeleton, honey," I said.

"Why not?"

"Because you're a Gummy Bear!" 

This got big laughs (sometimes my only goal for the day, I admit), a smile from Alicia and the other kids' insistence that they too were Gummy Bears.  This led to a discussion of the relative merits of various Gummy animals--worms, fish, sharks, etc.--and of course a boy named Trevor came up with Gummy skeletons, but the other kids shouted him down, saying there was no such thing. 

Somehow we segued into a discussion of the most disgusting imaginary flavors of ice cream we could think of, with just about everyone eager to contribute:  Mud ice cream, Booger ice cream, Broken Glass ice cream, Dandruff ice cream, Vomit ice cream, Baby food ice cream, B.O. ice cream, Cockroach ice cream . . . You get the idea.

Then it was time for recess, and I made my voice as sinister and sepulchral as possible saying, "Be careful out there on that hot, hot, asphalt playground, dear ones!"  

American education is a great, on-going experiment, one I'm proud to be a part of.

1 comment:

  1. Are we sure that Justin Bieber is a mammal? Keep it coming. This stuff is funny.