If you live in Phoenix — the city of 100-degree temps even after midnight — San Diego sounds like a dream. It’s by the ocean, it’s within driving distance, it experiences perfect weather all year round, and it’s not the desert.
My lucky, lucky parents happen to live in San Diego, so a friend and I road-tripped on over to the City of Perfect Weather for the Labor Day weekend. While we were there, we went to the beach, saw wild dolphins jumping around in the ocean, and ate both seafood and home-cooked Chinese food. It was pretty much a perfect long weekend and a great escape from the desert heat.
On our 5.5-hour drive back to Phoenix, we were hit by a haboob. What’s a haboob, you ask? Well, a haboob is a type of intense dust storm commonly observed in arid regions around the world like the Middle East and, of course, central and southern Arizona. While I’ve experienced haboobs and dust storms before, this one hit me especially hard: 1) physically because I was driving at the time and 2) mentally because it reminded me that while I’m able to escape from the desert on a whim, none of my students have that option.
I can go to San Diego to escape the heat and have tons of fun, and then come back Monday night to go to school Tuesday. But rarely, if ever, do my students get a chance to leave the boundaries of our school district. My students’ concept of the world is, to say the least, very limited.
My students say they love the ocean, but have they ever breathed the ocean air? No. My students say they love the beach, but have they ever felt the sand between their toes? Only the sand and dust left behind after a haboob sweeps over the city.
This is why I decided to start a unit on our community and eventually broaden that to help my students learn a little bit more about the world, not just the world they happen to live in. I want them to be global citizens as much as the next person, even if they’ve never stepped outside Phoenix’s boundaries and even if their exceptionalities make it exceptionally difficult for them to understand concepts they cannot feel for themselves.
I may not be able to take my students to San Diego to touch the ocean, but maybe I can bring some of the ocean to them. And maybe I can’t take them to China, but maybe they can get a taste of Asia if I can just figure out how to cook something beyond ramen.
Can you tell my return trip from San Diego has truly inspired me? (Thanks, haboob!) I know my kids need to learn how to read, write, and have basic number sense, but I’m certain we can accomplish all that by reading about stingrays, pen-palling with U.S. soldiers serving abroad, and counting the number of countries in the world today.
What do you think?