Student Museum Musings – A Student Placed at Home

By Nova S., Trent Child & Youth Studies Intern

From the beginning of my university career, I had my eyes set on a particular fourth year course in my major. Said course allowed students to try field-based learning, a chance to gain practical experience. Students could actually apply what they were learning in the classroom.

Well, so much for that.

So much for field-learning, and heck, so much for classrooms, too.

I never minded online learning. Really, I didn’t. It seems like most people would gape at me for that, but there were benefits for someone with anxiety like me. Yes, maybe it was an escape of sorts, but at times, in-person was overwhelming sensorially, with all the people and noise. So it was, honestly, sort of a nice break. Online, I didn’t have to commute. Online, I didn’t have to face the cold. Online, I could go at my own pace, and rewind my professor as many times as I needed.

It took a while for someone with anxiety like me to miss people, but wow, do I miss people. (Some people, at least. I think my fear of crowds is worse now than ever, along with everybody else’s). The benefits of being online were all still there, but the cons began to sink in.

Somehow, moving forward from there, I made a couple of friends from my university. I also made friends out of others on the Internet in general, because where else are you supposed to hang out? Okay, I think to myself, still, being online isn’t so bad.

And then it came time for my field-based learning.

Before I was a fourth-year, I took advantage of a few other opportunities to meet and interact with kids. I guess now would be a good time to mention that my major is Child & Youth Studies.

I volunteered at my family’s church for a special day of activities. My brother was, not-so-coincidentally, assigned to be my helper. We spent the day going from station to station, corralling kids only a few years younger than my brother at the time, holding hands, making crafts for them to show their parents afterwards, and encouraging participation in song and dance. We helped each other, we kept track of each other, and we made sure we all felt included.

Though I’m not in touch with that church anymore, I’m sure special days like that are no longer running – at least on such a grand scale.

I joined the Pen Pal Club at my university, in which we were paired up with a student from an elementary school nearby. The letters were fun to write, using different colours and stickers, but it was even more fun to receive. Messy and scribbled spelling mistakes, drawings you have to squint at to figure out what they’re supposed to be, excited retellings of their accomplishments in school, and eagerness to meet you! Yes, we would meet two or three times a year at the university and have a few stations we would rotate through, where stories would be told, colouring would be done, magic would be performed, and more. And at the end of the day, the kid paired with you would hug you goodbye and file out the door with their class.

When the pandemic started, we had already established pen pals and written to them once. It was a couple of weeks before the kids were supposed to come in person to visit when the whole thing was cancelled.

Lastly, I had a part-time job at an indoor playground, mainly rented out for children’s birthday parties. Usually, supervision was the job of the host parents – whoever’s kid’s birthday it was. But, rather frequently, we helped kids down from parts of the playground they’d climbed up and then realized too late that they were scared. We served food and got thank yous. Once, even, this adorable girl asked me to help her wipe her face and hands.

My boss texted us not too long into the pandemic that we were closed until further notice. And so, I waited. And waited. It wasn’t until I tried applying for other jobs and needed them for a reference that I texted my boss and discovered that, actually, the place had closed permanently. I guess it was a smaller business that was one of the many to, unfortunately, not survive this pandemic.

And now, here I am. I have a placement, yet I am not out in the field with kids, but at home. And I finally realize that I miss the kids more than I miss adult people, probably. (Sorry).

It’s nobody’s fault, after all. We all have to continue being safe or this will really never end.

Still, it’s not all that bad. I was fortunate enough to be able to go in-person once for a brief initiation, and my supervisors, both at the museum and at the university, are determined to make sure I benefit as much as possible from it.

I was, as I’m sure many people are, never focused on history. Sure, it was fascinating, and I was fortunate enough to have a pretty good history teacher in high school. But like many others, I moved on from it after graduating with my own interests in mind.

My first duty after being accepted by Oshawa Museum was to familiarize myself with their programs, exhibitions, values, and blog. I didn’t expect to get so sucked into it. Everything looked so fascinating. I fell into a rabbit hole of sorts, clicking link after link, reading letters, viewing photographs, learning, and being fascinated.

Here at the Oshawa Museum (from my home), my main task is to improve on and build programs. Children’s programs, flexibly built for online or in-person, that are mindful and expressive of the diversity within ourselves and within others.

I’m determined to help make kids fascinated in history, because our present and our futures have roots in the past. As I have had the fortunate opportunities to see, kids are full of excitement, wonder, and curiosity. But it’s not about what those kids will be in the future – it’s about what they are now. They are fully capable of forming their own opinions and being participatory citizens, and I hope I can play a part in inspiring them to realize that they can do plenty in diversity and equality activism just as they are now. It all starts with that fascination.

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