Field Trip

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Holly Hubbard Preston discovers that field trips aren't just for the edification of students.

When my daughter and a couple of her friends had to be in Berkeley for a three-day volleyball camp, I volunteered to drive. A self-employed writer, my office is portable. I can work anywhere, all the time.

On Day One, I spent the day holed up in the library working.

By Day Two, proximity to the non-routine proved overwhelming. Seizing a wild hair of an idea, I decided to take a field trip to the Lawrence Hall of Science. Rather than drive, I would walk.

For 1.8 mostly vertical miles, I wound my way up Centennial Drive to Grizzly Peak. On the way, I passed Memorial Stadium, which on that clear, summer day, emptied of its patrons, offered a breathtaking study in both classical revival architecture and seismic engineering. The stadium sits directly on the Hayward Fault, some 410 spectacular feet above sea level.


Next stop was the Botanical Gardens for a brief but head-spinning introduction to arguably one of the largest collections of plants anywhere in the world.

The higher I went, the broader my vista. By the time I reached the crest, I had the entire Bay Area spread out before me like a visual picnic lunch.

At the science center, I learned about a praying mantis able to mimic a white orchid and why so may scientists are crazy about cephalopods, a phylum of mollusks considered a model organism for the study of genetics. In a planetarium, I was reminded of the phases of the moon, the bravery of Galileo and the brilliance of a curious child.

Educators speak all the time about the importance of field trips for school-age children, how they enrich as well as refresh a young mind in a way classroom learning cannot. What about an older brain? When I went back to my computer on Day Three, my brain definitely seemed spryer. Okay, maybe not so spry as the seven year-olds who so impressed me in the planetarium.

Then again, they probably go on more field trips than I do.

With a Perspective, Holly Hubbard Preston.

Holly Hubbard Preston writes essays and fiction from her base in St. Helena.