Last Tuesday, in celebration and appreciation of Earth Day, the students in the Pre-1st class at El Papalote, traveled 30 minutes north, via vans, for a day at La Casa de la Cultura in Puerto Morelos. I was lucky enough to be invited along as chaperone/staff photographer. This was my very first field trip as a mom and I was thrilled that Birdie wanted me to tag along with her and her classmates. I might as well take advantage of the opportunity now. In a few years, she won't want to be seen with her boring/crazy/annoying/totally un-cool mum and her darn camera ;)

In preparation for their special project of the day, Miss Kim gathered the students in one of the classrooms and introduced them to the traditional Mexican figurines sculpted of clay called "cuentacuentos", the story-tellers. These small figures can take the shape of a human or an animal and will often have smaller figures attached to it resembling offspring. The figures are often shown singing or drumming and are used to tell the story of a family or group. It is through these figures that this history is kept alive generation after generation. Miss Kim showed the children some beautiful examples of cuentacuentos and helped them think of what kind of figure might best represent them and their families.

From there, the children went to an outdoor art area where they were given their own hunk of clay or "barro" and given further instruction on how to make the various parts of the body, hollowing out the larger pieces so that the figure would not explode while baking in the kiln. They were shown the techniques for attaching one bit of clay to the next by "scoring" and using "slip" as cement. The parents and teachers on hand helped the students to realize their individual creations. It was great fun to watch all the little artists hard at work!

The moms and teachers got into the act themselves.


When the students were satisfied with their creations, we took a quick lunch break beneath some banana trees and then headed up the road to check out the mangrove and its inhabitants. Miss Kim explained to the children that the "earthy" smell and rust color of the water is perfectly normal to the mangrove and not a result of pollution. This time of year being the dry season, the water level was incredibly low and we could see millions of fish sharing a very small amount of water. In places, it looked at if the water was boiling from all the fish moving so close together. At this time of year, it is normal to see some dead fish on and near the shoreline .Miss Kim explained that in this case, there were way too many, most likely due to unchecked littering and illegal fishing in these protected areas. While it appeared to me that the mangrove was in pretty bad shape, it was certainly sustaining an enormous amount of wildlife. We saw hundreds of ducks, cranes, egrets and cormorants making a home in the mangrove.

The children made a quick stop to blow off some steam at the playground in Puerto Morelos' quiet, picturesque zocalo.

The last leg of the children's outing was a quick, age appropriate and very well presented slideshow and discussion about the mangroves, their important role in the delicate balance of the world's ecology and how each of us can play a part in making sure the mangroves are protected. The children were pleased to know that their own daily efforts in recycling and water conservation at home are essential to the preservation of the mangroves all over the world.

For the Pre-1st class at Papalote, Earth Day 2008 was a big success and a lot of fun. Thank you to Miss Kim, Miss Anna, the artists and staff of the Puerto Morelos Casa de la Cultura and all the Pre-1st moms who helped make this day enjoyable as well as educational for our children.