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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Field Trip Prep: The Newseum

I planned an end-of-the-schoolyear field trip for our three youngest children, spanning in age from 10.5 to 14.5.  Who cares that we continue school through the summer, it was the thought that counted.  We would head to The Newseum, a high-tech, heady experience in Washington, DC.  I felt that by now, they spoke enough English to “get” some of the exhibits, as well as our culture of up-to-the-minute information.  What most kids embraced as second nature, I would have to teach ours about the news, and thus we began Field Trip Prep 101.

Mind you, we had discussed all of the following for a few weeks.  The blank canvases were not absorbing well.  The Sink-In Factor was not yet up to Satisfactory.  So here we went again.  (Our oldest son had already been to The Newseum, and thus was not participating in these pearls of education regarding The Press.)

Moi:    “What is 9/11?”

Student #1:            “When Communism stopped.”

Moi, with weird look:            “No.”

Student #2:            “When the two towers were hit by terrorists in planes.”

Moi:            “Good.  What do the numbers 9/11 mean from that day?”

Student #1:            “Emergency, 911.”

Moi, stifling weird look:            “No, but good guess.”

Student #2:            “December 11th.”

Moi, with weirder look:            “No.  We’ve talked about this.”

Student #3:            “June 11th.”

They were grasping at straws now.

Moi:            “Alright, 9/11 would be September, the ninth month, and the 11th day.  Can you think of in what number month your birthday falls?”

Blank stares.  I could only imagine their thoughts, if any….

“Number?  Our months have names.  Poor Mama, she’s blown a gasket again.”

I move on, trying to keep my focus on news, and my facial expressions under control.

Moi:    “And what is media bias?”

Student #1:             “Pirates.”

Moi:            “Pirates?  I said ‘Bias’.  Okay, bias is favoritism, not presenting all of the facts, liking one side of the story or point of view.  If a journalist is biased he or she is telling one position more than another, and tainting your window on the news.”

Blank stares.  Did I really review this information with these childen prior to this time, or have aliens just moved into my house and swapped out the kids…?

Moi:    “What is the First Amendment?”

Student #1:  “When Communism stopped.”

This seems to be a recurring theme.

Student #2:  “The first news on the front page.”

Moi:    “No, but we did discuss how editors decide what should be headline news.  You’re thinking… and that’s good….”

Student #3:  “Wait… wait…” one is about to recapture this thought.  “Freedom of speech!”

Moi:  “Right… freedom of speech, religion, press.  That means you can write or report something against our government and not be gunned down outside on the street like Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow in 2006, or like any of the 16 other journalists killed in Russia since 2000, if you believe that number.  Some say it could be closer to 200 murders of news-gatherers—without true freedom of the press, you just don’t know.  The First Amendment is part of our U.S. Constitution.”

Might as well have said that the Constitution was mapped out by Lewis and Clark, as aided by Sacagawea.  But I was planning for the future….

Moi, once more with Enthusiasm:  “What is investigative reporting?”

Student #1:  “Find out the news.”

Moi, not impresssed:            “Well, yes, you need to get the facts behind any story, but what makes investigative journalism different from other styles of news-gathering?  What word is inside ‘investigative’?”

Student #3:            “Investigate!”

Now it starts to dawn on them regarding our talks of undercover reporters in high schools, breaking stories on drugs, or cheating….

Moi:    “A lot of the work is undercover—secret—you use a fake name and gather facts.”

Student #2:            “Spy work!”

Moi:    “Sort of, but it’s spying to then report about it.”

Moi:            “We’re going to see part of a wall that made history.  Can anyone remember and tell me the story of the wall?”

Student #3:            “The Western Wall.”

Moi:    “No, that’s in Jerusalem.”

Student #1:            “When Communism stopped.”

Eventually, it had to be correct.

Moi:            “Sounding better….  Where was this?”

Student #2:            “In Germany-!”

Moi:            “Where in Germany?”

Student #2:            “North and South Germany and one side wanted to be Communists.”

Moi:    “No, nobody really wanted to be Communists… only the crazy Bolsheviks who started Communism and took everyone else’s property…. It’s not the North and the South—that’s the Civil War in this country, and that’s not Communism.  What was the city’s name?”

Blank stares.

Moi:    “Okay, what was the wall’s name?”

Student #3:            “Bahnga.”

Moi:            “Bahnga?”

Nervous laugh.

Moi:            “Because they Bahnga-ed their heads against the wall?  It was the Berlin Wall, dividing East and West Berlin, and East and West Germany.”

I rehearse President Reagan’s thunderous declaration, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” and recount how news, and history, were made.

Moi:  “Maybe we have some newsmakers inside of you….”

As our last bit of prep work for the field trip, I try to conjure up something with which they may be familiar.

Moi:    “From where do we get our news today?”

Student #1:            “Newspapers.”

Moi:            “Good.”

Student #2:            “Televisia.”

Moi:            “Good.”

Student #3:            “Rah-dio.”

Moi:            “Good.  But you’re forgetting what’s really popular these days.  Where do most people find out the news?”

Student #1:            “Telephones!”

Moi:    “Huh?  You call somebody?”

Student #1:            “Papa does, he sees the news on his phone.”

Moi:    “Oh, I get it.  Alright, that’s the Internet and he’s using his phone like a computer.  Most people tend to get their news online today.”

Unlike my children who received their information via myself sending smoke signals to their brains.  Some days they could decipher the dots and dashes, and some days, well….

I couldn’t wait to arrive to The Newseum and see how much they might grasp or recall.  We would make it a game, a Fun Day, and slip in education somewhere along the way.

If all else failed, Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant was right next door.  A happy bit of news, if there ever was one.



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6 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. Love it! We went yesterday to see the replicas of the Nina and the Pinta that were in town, so to speak. Jupiter, of course, was most interested in the fact that there was no bathroom on the boat (at least not in the original) and was horrified when I explained that in 1492 for the most part one just did his business over the side.

    • avatar admin says:

      Now see, you’re onto something there, Wendy. Doing one’s business over the side of a pitching and tossing boat would be much more tricky than navigating any holes and footprints in E. Eur.-!

  2. avatar Phyllis says:

    I have to say again, I love these posts!!! It is always such an encouragement for me. Craig will ask the boys questions at dinner, and often I seem to question myself as to what exactly I had been doing for the past 9 months. There is no evidence that I had done anything!! : ) The questions and answers may be different, but it is so similar to our household. Thanks!

    • avatar admin says:

      I know, I know, Phyllis. We had one of ours who’s been convinced for at least the last year that Philadelphia is in Florida-!? It finally “clicked” recently. I think I had to make up a song or something, lol. Whatever it takes….

  3. avatar Sybil says:

    Just saw this post and had to comment as it was so terrific. Your posts regarding your children and their reactions and comments makes me look back at our experiences with our daughter through the years. When she was in kindergarten they learned about Martin Luther King for an entire week. On Friday when she came home with her folder of work I asked her what she learned about Martin Luther King. She looked dumbstruck. I persevered, “Now come on, you learned lots of things, just tell me one thing.” She thought and thought for a long time and finally put her index finger in the air and said in her heavily accented voice, “I got it.” I was so happy, “OK, tell Mama.” Her proud reply, “He wanted to be King.” I was too taken with her personal logic to correct her.

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