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More than Just Rocks

The School’s volunteer effort towards watershed restoration at the San Diego River Project garden started off in great fashion. The sun was out, temperatures were warm but comfortable, and those gathered began to do their part in moving dirt and mulch, weeding, excavating, and clearing brush. Early on, it was clear that due to the magnitude of the task at hand, more options for the youngest of our friends to fully participate were needed.

Fortunately, everywhere one looked there were rocks placed along pathways, around new plantings as protection from erosion, and strategically arrayed as buffer zones. Those rocks had to come from somewhere. It was clear that a “call out” to those of our youngest friends who were looking for something to do, that a rock collecting expedition was in order. There was uncertainty as to whether or not this idea would fly, but soon armed with buckets, hands large and small, and most importantly adventurous attitudes, a small group began to look for, and collect rocks.

One was quickly taken by mom, dads, daughters, and sons pairing up with other friends, and going about a simple but worthwhile task of “collecting rocks” and diligently transporting them from field to pile. “Look, Mr. Volker, this rock is as big as I am” – not far from the truth – exclaimed a first-grade geologist. Another called out, “I’ve collected six so far, and where can I find more?”  

In the midst of this were two sometimes three of our younger students diligently digging around a large boulder that they were determined to extract from the ground. Fortunately I didn’t hear anyone say that their task was foolish. Instead the boys dug in, employed teamwork, and were soon lost in the activity. One could not refrain from smiling quietly when they were overheard saying after uncovering a zigzag-patterned “vein”, and “Wow, look at the hieroglyphics”.

I was reminded of a time when along with two of my boyhood pals, a small boulder in a vacant lot next door to my home was attacked in similar fashion. Fortunately, we had three successive afternoons after school to diligently dig, scrape, and eventually uncover 90 percent of the medicine-ball size stone. Then armed with my father’s six-foot long steel pry bar, we were able to wedge one end under the boulder, position ourselves on the other end, and lever what was to us a monster rock out of the ground. Our position was on a small incline so the exhilaration of seeing the result of our work roll faster and faster down the hill was not only a lesson in levers, leverage, gravity, mass, and momentum, but a simple sense of accomplishment for three erstwhile Huck Finns.

I was saddened in a way that our boys were not able to fully extract the boulder from the ground, but to watch them so engaged for the good 20 minutes or so in which they uncovered at least 25 percent of it was a sight to behold, both in its simplicity and fun.

Once again this and the activities that surrounded them on this bright Saturday morning drove home the point that it is the simplest of activities, oftentimes without power or personal devices, that can still bring a great amount of joy and sense of accomplishment to our students and their families.

Posted by Raymond Volker on Monday October, 14, 2013

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