Space Day arrived bright and early – a little too early in my opinion. Waking up at 5 am was never comfortable, but when you are expected to educate 12-year-olds on the wonders of space, the prospect of being awake before the sun seems even less inviting. As I crawl into the confines of the minivan, I think of the health nuts awake with me now. Are they happy on their treadmills and flaxseed smoothies?
The sky is still dark, so I doze off, but my sleep is quickly interrupted. We have arrived. I check my phone and sigh. My mother’s fear of being late has resulted in me arriving an hour early.Well, at least the family honour has stayed intact.
The Monarch Park Stadium before me is a gleaming pantheon to sports. It almost makes me wish I was athletic, but such is the strength of sleep deprivation. I walk straight in, trying to look like I belong, but quickly hide in the change room, waiting for some company.
My classmates begin to trickle in, and we journey into the bubble to set up our stations. As we work, a fitness group exercises, taunting us with their strong muscles and bright eyes. They squat and pull and run to loud music as we read over the instructions for the day. Most have to educate; they read out a little information before beginning a physical demonstration. I, on the other hand, must test their knowledge. We are playing Jeopardy, which means I must communicate with the children.
Somehow, I must excite them enough that they will enjoy answering questions like, “What was Canada’s first satellite?” and “Which Canadian astronaut has spent the most time in space?”. The answers, of course,are Alouette 1 and Robert ‘Bob’ Thirsk.
Typical trivia for a 12-year-old.
Thankfully, I am not alone hosting Jeopardy. After a couple of minutes spent figuring out Keynote on the laptop, we hear a roar in the distance.
They have come.
Groups of children file into the bubble, all different sizes, contained on the track before they sit down for a presentation by our very own physics teacher, Mr. Van Bemmel. We hold signs with our station numbers, chatting amongst ourselves while half the children listen attentively (the other half pick at the turf.)
We were not prepared for a wave of 6-graders running towards us, looking for their station numbers. Chaos ensues as I frantically count my students, hoping I haven’t lost any. I take them to our spot on the field, and they sit in front of me, quiet. Surprisingly, they listen to me. We play our first game with no trouble, and they enjoy working together. I seem to have misjudged the maturity of 6th graders.
Our 15-minute session is over quickly, and I am almost sad to see them go. The next group runs in, and I hear some girl talk about Justin Bieber. I am taken aback for a moment; it is almost as if I am back in grade 6.
The rest of the groups slide by without much issue. Some students attempt to climb each other, some are keen to answer every question, whether or not it is theirs. Some students are a little mouthy, but the majority are well behaved.
It is interesting to see how the students react to questions and the flow of their own team. A team can easily guide or lead away a student from the correct answer through peer pressure. In any group, it is the popularity of the answer over the correctness. Even if a student is very insistent, he is very easily overshadowed by the multitude of voices shouting their opinions. All are relaxed and comfortable though, no-one takes the game too seriously, and seem to forget disagreements immediately.
Being 12 years old is a very interesting time. The students range in maturity, but all laugh at juvenile jokes together. You can talk to them like you’d talk to your friends, and it almost seems like they are until they do something that makes you rethink everything.
Space day was about learning about the wonders of the universe, but it also gave me an opportunity to think back about growing up. How free I was then, when I was less self-aware and more pliable.
The people you surround yourself with really mold you, intentionally or not, and sadly we do not recognize their effects until we look back. It’s opportunities like these that allow us to recognize that we were not always this hard on ourselves. They remind us to take a break from our worries and be children again, free and easygoing, at least for a day.