Me & Them – Looking Back?

Pittsburgh South Vo-Tech public school field trip participants - May 2004, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Sometimes we look back, sometimes fondly. Here, I’m looking back to a Wetlands Study field trip we took, was it in 1998? What memories this releases. I’m here, taking this photo, and this was the one and only time we had another high school teacher along, she in the middle row at the right.

For almost everyone in this pic, Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania was their first time out of the city of Pittsburgh, and for most, their first experience in a wilderness. They were my Biology students at South Vo-Tech High School, on Pittsburgh’s Southside.

I tell you I look and look at this pic, and I smile, smile much. Who among them will ever forget this trip into a wonderland they’d never known before? Which of them will take their kids, whom I expect they now love, to such sylvan, magical places, to wonder at wildflowers, trees, butterflies, frogs, lizards, weasels, great blue herons, red-wing blackbirds, millipedes and Oh so much more?

I feel good, like I knew that I would!


JumpBack to 2004 . . . Memories Galore

Pittsburgh South Vo-Tech public school field trip participants - May 2004, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

I pitched so many of my images. Those South Vo-Tech H.S. field trips, now without provenance. We used to go on 3 each May, all wetland study trips. I always took no more than 15 kids. I never had a parent join us. This one is saved for the archives. There is a teacher along with us, because that teacher wanted to participate, and the administration caved and we had our rare 2nd adult.

Raccoon Creek State Park is 45 minutes west of South H.S., almost to the West Virginia state line. The Wetland Trail leads through diverse habitat. This year we ALL had belly laughs, for the rains days before left the trail supper muddy, and they 16 to 18 year olds never sunk so deep in mud, ever. Uncle Sam taught me to never quit, and we lived that lesson, laughing and slipping, but we persevered.

Did not ever take a class on a trip. Told all of incoming students in September that all would have a chance to go, and those who showed maturity, did their work, and cooperated . . . they would go. Backbreakers in September, after watching out ‘Slide Labs [featuring images of their friends on earlier trips], would make a 360 degree turnaround by January. Truth be told, I brought kids to meet the outdoors who were Legends on their mean Pittsburgh streets . . . and were wonderful with us in the forests, meadows, wetlands and diverse terrain.

They’re out there now, these guys would be in their late 20’s. They know that the red-wing blackbird is Agelaius phoenixes; Common cattail is Typha latifolia; Monarchs are Danaus plexippus; and Bald eagles are Haliaeetus leucocephalus. Back in their city neighborhoods, the house sparrow is Passer domesticus; the Cardinal is Cardinalis cardinalis  and the starling is Vulgaris vulgaris.

I meet them unexpectedly here and there in the city. They see me, Beam! and say “Mr. Zablow!” Next they straighten up and say ” Typha, the cattail . . . I still remember!” It sets my heart Kaboom! kaboom!

Introduce our kids to flora and fauna, let them see how much you Love and Respect it, and you will have created new legions of stewards of the environment.