|Apart from the buzz of the air conditioning unit, there was a noticeable hush in Room 110. Monica labored over each letter in her name, making sure they were penned perfectly on the cover of her new journal. Miguel looked around at the lexicon known as the “Word Wall” that stood before him. “Budget”, “Profit”, “Inquiry” “Meterology” “Eco-System”. These words were new and strange. He wondered if he was the only one who thought so. But his thoughts and the hush were interrupted by Oscar, an entering 7th grader, who was amongst the last to arrive. And he made a grand entrance. Zombie-like. Walking, as if still sleeping, to his spot at a table, where he promptly laid his weary head to rest. With a thunk.
It was the first day of the Andrew Jackson Elementary Sizzling STEM-City Summer program. A pilot of sorts for this industry-specific MicroSociety model. A museum industry to be exact. With a 4-week span to get up and running and play host to a major community event. Other students, sitting straight-backed and attentive in their chairs, exchanged glances. Did he really just walk in and go to sleep?
“In just a little bit, we are going to talk about the different job opportunities in your science museum,” Ms. Carter, the program’s facilitator, explained during the morning meeting, “But first I’d like to know, ‘What do you consider to be your personal strengths?’ “
Some hands shot up. Others lingered halfway. Unsure of whether they wanted to risk a response. Oscar simply called out. Head still perched on its wooden pillow. “Sleeping,” he yelled. “Oh yeah, and being lazy.”
A few nervous laughs followed along with some less reluctant ones. Ms. Carter nodded. A comedian in the bunch. But she didn’t dismiss him. Or reprimand him. Or lose faith that he had a spark in him waiting to ignite.
“I can tell,” was her only response. “You’re lucky. Some people, especially insomniacs really struggle with that.”
Oscar picked his head up for a second. A half-smile spread across his face before he returned to his siesta.
As the first day was drawing to a close, Ms. Carter led the group on launching their personal blogs. A way to record and reflect on their 4-week journeys. As a model, she showed them her first entry.
“You wrote so much,” Diana and others gasped.
“My entry is longer than yours.” Oscar once again, called out. Ms. Carter headed to his computer to take a look. She was met by a clip art image. And a single word. Money. Her forehead scrunched in a confused kind of way.
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” he smirked, “I counted and you had 952, so I have more than you. 1,001.”
“Do you really think so?” Ms. C responded. “If my husband sent me a picture of a heart instead of telling me mushy, gushy things, I don’t think I would feel that way.”
“She didn’t even yell at him,” Ariana mouthed to Esme. Esme mouthed back, “I know,” incredulously.
Oscar applied for and earned the job of Geology Curator in the museum. A leadership role. No one discouraged him from it. He didn’t drag. Or slack. Or disappoint. He led his group of four in developing a highly interactive exhibit. He put Carmen on the “Guess the Rock” game, Miguel on the volcanic explosion, and Angel on the “Properties of Crystals” live demonstration. He took on the research of such things as “Stonehenge”, a rock-related mystery of history.
He started entering the room each day with his head up. A folder in his hand replaced the cell phone. The wooden desk evolved from a napping place to the perfect surface to lay out his exhibit blue print. Drafted in neat pencil lines on 1 inch grid paper. “Hey Miguel, Angel, Carmen,” he hollered, “Breakfast time is over. Quit sleeping and get over here. We need to plan out how our tour will go.” And so they did.
At the culminating event, a visitor passing through the Geology exhibit posed a tough question for Oscar. “How has this summer experience changed you?” she inquired.
“Easy. I didn’t used to have any confidence,” he promptly responded. “Now I do. And I also trust other people more. I know that I can rely on them. I don’t have to be alone.”
The visitor paused, not expecting that kind of response. Especially not from a 7th grader. It caused a different kind of stir than Oscar’s comments usually did.
Finally, she replied, “I think a lot of adults need to learn this lesson.”