Greetings from Gourd Land!

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One of the great things about not having a 9 to 5 job is that I’m usually available to volunteer for school activities. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be winning any PTA volunteer of the year awards, although where I live the competition is pretty fierce. Me? I stick to helping out on field trips and making sets for school musicals.

One of the often frequented field trip destinations for elementary school age children is a place owned by the school district known as the Outdoor Learning Center. Here’s a brief description from the website:

The Outdoor Learning Center is nestled on 35-acres of land kept in its natural state. The OLC is a place where plants and animals live and grow and where science and social studies lessons spring to life as students at all grade levels participate in hands-on activities….

The school district is currently expanding the services and classroom experiences offered at the OLC. A living history classroom has been added where teachers and students participate in interactive lessons, and in the science classroom, students explore and discover native plants and animals.

My daughter’s 4th grade class visited both the living history classroom and the science classroom yesterday. I was assigned to one of the ten learning stations in the science classroom:

  • Station 1: Seeds
  • Station 2: Gourds
  • Station 3: Arthropods
  • Station 4: Animal Teeth
  • Station 5: Butterflies and Moths
  • Station 6: Fossils
  • Station 7: Birds
  • Station 8: Vines
  • Station 9: Reptiles/Amphibians
  • Station 10: Mammals

Yeah…my station? Station 2: Gourds. Which I suppose is a step up in the excitement category from Seeds or Vines, but notice how the stations are arranged. The room is a large rectangle. The kids, in groups of two, were assigned 5 minutes per station then moved around to the next station. So the kids who had just come from a table full of taxidermy animals and fur pelts got to come to me next. For whatever reason, the kids did not stop at Station 1: Seeds, or Station 3: Arthropods. I was, however, giving my fascinating 5 minute talk about the wonderful world of gourds while standing next to a tank full of angry crawfish and another tank full of African Clawed Frogs.

So yeah, that wasn’t at all distracting. And since Station 10 was right next to my station, some of the stuff that wouldn’t fit on the mammal table was on a shelf above the angry crawfish:

Oh, and did I mention that one of the frogs was about to give birth?

And that another one wasn’t actually from Africa but straight from the bowels of hell?

This frog started at me the entire time.

As you can well imagine, the children were riveted as I explained that gourds were originally from Africa and were carried by heavy rains into rivers and later oceans to eventually reach all parts of the world; that pumpkins, cucumbers, cantaloupes and other melons were considered gourds, and that there were many uses for the hollow, durable wood-like gourds that were on display.

I could tell they were fascinated by my station, because they asked thoughtful questions like,

“What’s a gourd?”


“Is that white frog dead or what?”

Okay, not really. The kids were actually pretty great. Especially after I told them it would take me roughly 3 minutes to talk about gourds, after which time they could look at the frogs and further provoke the angry crawfish…

So, what’d you do yesterday?

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