Not Just A Rock

Written by Miguel Santos
    Friday, 06 March 2015
Not Just A Rock

The morning sunlight shimmered on the rippling surface of the river. It was a beautiful day in late fall as second graders hiked along the Menomonee Valley trails. The excitement of the kids grew as the trail got more and more covered by the trees. I realized that the border between them and the natural world had started to break down when I heard a few “wows” for a Blue Heron that flew by and a salmon going up the river to spawn. You could sense the connection one student had as she held an improvised walking stick.

The trail led us to the beach across the river bend, not far from Miller Park. After learning about rocks at the Center, they were about to explore our “outdoor laboratory” to look for and examine rocks and fossils. First, the students learned how to skip rocks because, needless to say, kids can never resist the urge to throw rocks into the river. It was challenging for them at first but, little by little, their flat rocks were bouncing off the water further and further. Some of them kept skipping rocks enthusiastically, while others decided to search for interesting rocks or merely explore the area. They looked like little Sherlock Holmeses searching for different kinds of rocks with hand lenses.

Suddenly, everybody’s attention was diverted toward a couple of pioneer explorers who found the first fossil. Their visible excitement drew everybody else into a gold rush-like search for these precious surprises. “Mr. Miguel, is this a fossil? What kind of rock is this?” they asked again and again.

Although they were not allowed to keep a rock or a fossil bigger than their fist, one girl wanted to take a brick-sized rock home. Her teacher tried to convince her that it was not a smart choice to take it home for the fact that it was too big and also because it was just a rock. The poor girl burst into tears when she heard that about her prize. Through the eyes of her teacher, it was just a rock. Through the girl’s eyes, it was magic. Then, she made a little sanctuary out of sticks to mark the spot and promised to be back with her mother later that day to grab it.

It was her first time at that riverbank even though her school (Pershing Elementary School) and maybe her home were less than a mile away. Connecting to that one simple rock connected her to the place. I don’t know if she ever came back with her mother after school, but I know these kinds of deep bonds create a commitment to lifelong protection.

Therefore, it is not just a rock, is it?

Photo Credit: Stone extends to the river by abios77 (http://abios77.deviantart.com/)
Miguel Santos

Miguel Santos

Miguel Ángel Santos García-Puente was born in Valdeobispo, Spain. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in English and French from the University of Salamanca, a Master’s Degree in Education while teaching Spanish at Carthage College in Kenosha, and a Master’s Degree in Spanish Literature and Linguistics while teaching Spanish at UWM. He worked as a Dual Immersion Elementary Teacher in Fairfield, California, and volunteered as a counselor at several YMCA camps in the United Sates. Miguel is a Bilingual Environmental Educator at the Riverside branch where he is able to utilize his diverse teaching experience to foster environmental literacy and raise both local and global awareness.


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