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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Words of Thanks

I've been busy with talks the last couple of weeks- seems like the saying "when it rains it pours" applies to me in this regard- I'll go a while minding my own business but then things will get busy. It started a couple of weeks ago when I gave my bird coloration talk (Bird Coloration and the Fascinating Case of Whitey, the Steller's Jay) to the Happy Transplants Garden Club in Westminster. For an encore, I did that talk again last night for the Aiken Audubon Society in Colorado Springs (thanks for having me, folks!) Between these bird talks, I did a Grand Canyon show with 6th grade reading classes at my school for 6 or 7 groups- it all blurs a little bit.

I've been presenting the talk since I had the privilege of rowing the Grand Canyon on an 18 day private trip in the fall of 2002. The 6th graders read a book called Downriver, which tracks the adventures & misadventures of a group of teenagers who hijack a van full of rafting gear and embark on their own trip down the canyon- quite the tale, and I gear my talk to show them many of the places mentioned in the book and to give them a feel for what a multi-week wilderness rafting trip is like. Anyway, I love the questions that the kids come up with- they are really into the book and hypothetical questions like, "What would happen if the scorpion stung you?" or "What happens if your boat flips?" But the best part is getting their thank-you notes. I can really see what resonated with different kids and feel the excitement they have about the book, the Grand Canyon, rafting, adventures in general, nature, etc.

So here are four I thought were pretty cool (word for word, but with a few little spelling fixes for clarity and names omitted for FERPA.) Here's the first:
Dear Mr. Schmoker,

Thank you for giving us that awesome presentation. I think the scorpion was cool because it was small but deadly. I also think Redwall Cavern and Lava Falls were cool too because Lava Falls looked so freaky and scary. I liked Redwall Cavern because it had red walls. Anyway, thanks again. I want to do the Grand Canyon now, maybe later but it looked fun.

Sincerely, A_____
Nice- right to the point, and included with the letter was a sketch of a raft-strewn rapid. You'll note that the scorpion also made an impression on the next correspondent. (A scorpion plays a big role in the book's plot, so I spent some effort getting a good close-up of a scorpion at one of our camps.)
Dear Mr. Schmoker,

Thank you for the slide show. The rafting looked cool. The scorpion slide scared the crap out of me because I'm going backpacking down the Grand Canyon. Did you have hamburgers at the Phantom Ranch? The slide show was awesome except the scorpion slide that scared the crap out of me.

Sincerely, T____ (K____'s younger brother.)
also included a sketch, this time of a scorpion with the universal "no" sign drawn through it, along with the caption..., you guessed it..., "This scorpion scared the crap out of me", underline and all. My sides were aching after reading that one. I also get a lot of the younger brother/sister thing- I've been teaching at CMS for 14 years now so I've had lots of sibling sets. The next note was a bit more refined but I still enjoyed it immensely:
Dear Mr. Schmoker,

Thank you for all of the information about whitewater rafting. I liked all the things you showed us and the Grand Canyon is very pretty. I'm glad you took all those pictures and put them in a slide that way we could see how wild and awesome it was. I wish you could feel how I felt I can't explain it! You should go to different schools and show them that slide show because it was the best I've ever seen. I think my favorite parts were seeing all the rapids, scorpions, and all the unique stuff. I've never been to the Grand Canyon and it was awesome to finally get to see what it looks like. I just wanted to say thank you and I had a great time hearing you talk about your adventures in the great Grand Canyon.

Sincerely, C____
p.s. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Now who says middle-schoolers never show their appreciation! Thanks to you, too, C____!!!
Finally, here's a note that really sums up why I like to do talks like this- you never know when somebody will really key in to the environmental thing.
The pictures of the Grand Canyon and the way you described it to us made it sound like the most amazing adventures and most beautiful place in the world. When I'm in my twenties I want to go down the Grand Canyon to see it for myself. I'm not sure you agree with me, but I think there is so much man-made beauty in the world but you can never capture the beauty that nature holds. It made me happy to see some parts of the world haven't been polluted or littered and have been the same for hundreds of years. The animals there in the pictures seemed happy to be there also. I appreciated this very much.

p.s. Thanks!
I added the bold font on my favorite part- how cool was that? Kind of gets at why some of us get so obsessed with birding, doesn't it?


Amy said...

That cr@p kid was hilarious!

Tim said...


Good to see you have gotten into the blogging also. I took the plunge shortly after moving back to the midwest, mainly to keep my family up-to-date on what I was doing besides work! I guess I have another blog to check into now. Take it easy.