A Mom, a Car, and a First Grade Field Trip

Given the opportunity, I jump at the chance to volunteer at my daughter Eileen’s school, St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. There are plenty of places to get involved.

Recently, the first graders made the trek to Aiken, SC to the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. Of course, when the note went home that drivers were needed, I signed up. At the time, I remember thinking, “Hmmm… I wonder where the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center is? Must be near Fort Gordon.” 

Imagine my surprise when I get the address. 

“AIKEN!?” I scream. 


I packed snacks. I packed drinks.

Four little girls in their perfect Mass uniforms eagerly walked to my car on the day of the trip, carrying their car seats, and giggling the whole way. Twenty minutes and one wrong turn later, the kids are in a classroom acting as “junior scientists” learning about magnets. They performed experiments to determine what things are magnetic and what things are not. They learned how to drive a car from South Carolina to Oregon using nothing but magnets.

FYI: It is harder than you think to steer a small toy car with a magnet. Fortunately, the kids did not need to ask for directions or stay on the interstate. 

After learning about “cow magnets” (something that cows swallow to catch all the metal they eat) and how compasses work, they headed downstairs to the planetarium. 

When I was a kid, the planetarium came to the school and was set up in the cafeteria. We took turns going into the blow-up tent and learning about the constellations. Childhood has advanced in the last twenty (ok, thirty) years. 

The students went to a real planetarium and were dazzled with, not just the constellations, but also the stories behind them. Hearing those little “ohhhhhs” and “ahhhhhs” of amazement when the lights dimmed and stars came out made me smile. Oh, to be a kid.

After a sack lunch, the kids loaded back up, tired from their adventures and ready to get back to school. It was a fun day for the kids and a fun one for the parents who volunteered. We got a chance to see budding scientists in the making.  


Rachel Cagle, guest blogger, is a parent of three children and member of St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church. Her first born, Eileen, is in her second year at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School.