WIESBADEN, Germany – Amelia, just 9-years-old, already knows exactly what she wants to do for a living one day. Today, May 6, she visited Clay Kaserne in Wiesbaden, together with around 120 other children from Wiesbaden Elementary School.
“We want the kids to learn how a community works,” said Wiesbaden Elementary teacher Katie DiStefano, explaining the learning goal of the tour. To do this, the children were introduced to the most important tasks of a community during several learning units in the classroom and on this field trip to Clay Kaserne.
The police, fire department, local community bank, Armed Forces Network TV and radio station, as well as Dunkin' Donuts were all scheduled stops. Dunkin' Donuts? We'll get to that later.
Police and fire departments are great places to work and especially exciting for the curious visitors. The excitement was blatantly evident and the chatter even bigger when the young crowd learned about the functions of a fire engine, explained by firefighter Edmund Vaeth. Firefighter is my dream job, says 9-year-old Kian, while firefighter Richard Scherer equips him with the protective equipment, consisting of a protective jacket, firefighter helmet and breathing air bottle. The athletic junior now weighs 15 kilograms more than he did two minutes ago.
The highly-motivated military police officers offered real action to the young visitors. The children crawled into the police cars, turned on the blue lights and shouted over loudspeakers.
"You are arrested for being annoying!"
"You are arrested for being annoying," resounds inaudibly in the direction of the teachers from the loudspeaker of a military police vehicle. It is clear that the young “speaker” does not want to read his name in public. Corporal Andrew Vigueria explains to 9-year-old Gabrielle, the function of the countless buttons and switches in the police car, while his colleague, Private Dustin Busbey playfully handcuffs the children.
“I want to be a police officer because then I'll have a gun and be able to protect myself,” Amelia solves the puzzle of our first sentence.
Again, Busbey patiently explains to his young audience that he has his service weapon not only to protect himself, but that doing his job is also about protecting other people. Staff Sergeant Anastasiya Jones sets off a real emergency when she starts handing out crayons as a gift from a box to the children.
On the airfield, we meet Michael Horn, who flew UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for 17 years in a previous career. As confidently as he mastered his multi-million dollar aircraft over many years, he now, as an airfield manager, answers questions like those of 8-year-old Mark, who would also like to become a helicopter pilot:
“What do the yellow lines on the airfield mean?” Or: “Why is there a date on the tarmac?”
It gets really exciting for the inquisitive young visitors when Horn explains how an airplane stays in the air and how easy it is to fly. Much easier than a helicopter, he says. Good thing none of the airplane pilots are within earshot…
And Dunkin' Donuts?
“There, the children are supposed to learn how to handle money. Paying, recounting change, keeping count is the job,” explains teacher DiStefano. And after that? Sure, enjoying their delicious investments is all part of the learning experience.