By David Tarbert
At NASA they are big into taking measure. We slept under Saturn V, the biggest rocket in the world. We learned about the first chimp in space (Ham), the first person in space (Yuri Gagarin), and the first person to step on the moon (Neil Armstrong). As I was enjoying chaperoning this field trip, I couldn’t help but take measure of our own 4th graders. As things turned out, I had the opportunity to see how our favorite 10 year olds fared outside the comfort zone of the Cornerstone campus, how they compared to older students from other schools, and how they handled a little bit of adversity.
From 8:30 AM Thursday morning until Friday night after 8 PM, all 17 fourth graders were “not in Kansas anymore.” Gone were the comforting routines provided by drop-off and pick-up by their parents, their classroom, their table, their stool, their scheduled special area classes, etc. These kids were unfazed. They were excited to go on the NASA trip, and they remained excited throughout it. Each of them is comfortable in his or her own skin, and the class has an esprit de corps that travels well. This is only possible because the most important part of Cornerstone’s 4th grade was with them the whole time – Ms. Annmarie. When it was time for everyone to launch the rockets they had made, the loudest cheers were reserved for Ms. Annmarie’s countdown.
Being ever so slightly competitive by nature, I couldn’t help but notice how our 4thgraders did compared to the other students who went through NASA’s overnight adventure with us. We were the youngest group; the others were in middle school. Cornerstone’s students more than held their own, and always raised their hands with right answers and even better questions. One of my favorite parts of the trip was the Astronaut Encounter – a brief talk by one of the 500 men and women who have ever flown in space. The schools were then allowed to send students up to ask the astronaut a
question. After being asked for the millionth time how he went to the bathroom, the astronaut then listened to the question from Cornerstone’s 4th grader. Not once but twice he commented what a good question it was.
There was a hiccup on the trip that allowed me to observe how the children would respond to a little adversity. About 8 miles from NASA, the Big Green Bus decided it was going no farther. Despite the best efforts of the best bus driver there is, Mr. Keith, we were officially without wheels. It was very hot, the traffic around the bus was heavy, and no one could tell the students exactly what was going to happen next. The kids took their cues from their leader and stayed calm. They knew everything would be fine – a “knowing” born and nurtured at a wonderful school by a superior teacher. Ms. Annmarie arranged for NASA to send a bus to scoop us up, and the 4th grade’s adventure was on!