The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Ya Dig? Learning to slide on the ice

I sit at a dinner table eagerly awaiting my meal. “Yes, I would like some strawberries and corn!” I tell the cook. She brings over my plate, and we poke at the plastic food. “Simply delicious,” I tell her. She meows in response, having turned into a cat. I work at the Grinnell Preschool Laboratory right across from Burling. While most of us are frantically typing essays or discussing critical theory, there are children right across the street, building whole universes out of Legos!

Last week the preschoolers had a field trip. We went over how to walk with quiet voices, how to avoid slipping on the ice and then we were off. Our destination? The dentist’s office. The preschoolers were thrilled. They got to put on a white pillow case and pretend they were a giant tooth so another child could “brush” and “floss” them. They learned why dentists use the little mirror and got to see the exam rooms. The highlight of the trip? Getting a chance to “ride” in the dentist’s chair, complete with being tipped back and having the dental assistant turn the big light on above them. I do not recount this story with the aim of trivializing the excursion, but the very opposite. This was truly an adventure for these five and six-year-olds, and afterwards I reflected on how I could learn from them.

All too often, I think, the air of apathy, detachment and bitter sarcasm that is oh-so-cool on the Grinnell campus bars us from genuinely enjoying an activity. Last week when I went to work, every child got to drop food coloring into milk and then add soap. It turns out this concoction expands the food coloring, so it jets out in the milk and creates intricate patterns. The preschoolers weren’t the only ones who were transfixed with this. The college students not so subtly craned our necks to watch the bowl of milk again and again as each preschooler got to try the experiment. (Truth be told, the preschoolers stayed captivated even after the pretty patterns began to dissolve into a muddy brown liquid, and often found this to be more exciting than the actual experiment, but I digress.) Outside of the intangible yet very real borders of the Grinnell campus, I think people our age are much more likely to interact with the world with a child-like genuine curiosity and interest. Conversely, when on campus, trying to maintain a certain image, I think many of us sometimes act like the cool seventh grade boy in middle school. You know, the one who tries with all his might not to express any interest in the trampoline or maybe jumps on it once or twice with a carefully crafted bored expression.

Just a couple days ago, Geo Gomez ’15 and I were walking back from class. Our minds were on abstract academic concepts and faraway summer plans. Suddenly Geo asked me if I wanted to go slide on the frozen pond. I actually had to take a second to understand what he was talking about. My thoughts had been so far from my immediate surroundings as I walked around Grinnell that I didn’t even notice the large mass of frozen water on South Campus. I never considered how fun it would be to try to slide on it; never even swerving off of the sidewalk we all dutifully follow to and from class to check it out. Today was different, though. Geo and I tromped through the snow and stood at the edge of the frozen pool. Geo tried putting one foot on, the ice didn’t crack. He kept going and we both screamed out in laughter as it began to crack and I pulled him back to land. As we eventually continued to our respective dorms we looked at each other and both said in unison, “That was really fun!” I walked into my room that afternoon feeling a little less downtrodden by my Monday routine and a little more carefree.

Try to remember the last time you interacted with this icy hell of a campus, outside of simply fighting it to get to class. I’m not advocating for all of us to start mixing food coloring and dish soap in milk expecting to immediately revert back to idyllic childlike wonder. But it doesn’t hurt to pause, while on your daily Grinnell grind, to laugh at a squirrel or to slide around on the ice. When we try to understand this attitude, the same one that makes a dentist’s chair exciting, we begin to make a conscious effort to be enamored with the world even in its simplicity.

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