ILWACO It could be because President Obama spent too much money on frivolous items, like a private plane. Or maybe the Republicans did it because theyre mad that they have run out of money. It could be because the government simply has to close its doors to get anything done. And it might result in the Fred Meyer closing for a few days.
The seventh and eighth graders in Mrs. Kellys second period science class are quick to acknowledge that they dont really understand why the federal government shut down, what that actually means, or how it led to the cancellation of the annual middle school outing to the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. And to be perfectly honest, they said, they mostly dont care.
But one key point is crystal clear: They dont think its fair that political bickering cost them their first field trip in ages.
Last Thursday morning, the students in Kellys class were supposed to be tramping through the refuge, enjoying a gloriously sunny day in nature and collecting soil samples.
Local shutdown impact
The annual trip is a long-standing tradition at Ilwaco Middle School, and in normal years science students expect to go, rain or shine. But just days before the trip, funding for the refuge and its roughly 15 employees abruptly disappeared. National Wildlife Refuges were closed to public access. Employees were not even allowed to volunteer their services, according to U.S. Department of the Interior policy.
Instead of studying earth science, the students got a blunt lesson in civics: With the facilities closed and staff biologists on furlough, Mrs. Kelly had to tell her students the outing was cancelled.
When they found out, there were All of these disappointed faces on everyone. We were like, Are you serious? seventh-grader Arianna Bell recalled.
We dont usually go outside that much, so it was going to be fun to go outside and hang with friends. We were gonna test soil, rocks, explained eighth-grader Jorge Merino Ortiz, Thursday morning.
Merino Ortiz was looking forward to a Pretty good, pretty sciencey day with his class.
But then, he said, Out of nowhere the government decided to shut down for no apparent reason and ruined everyones trips!
Instead, the students reported to a dark basement science classroom in the midst of a widespread power outage, and Mrs. Kelly tried her best to make the most of a frustrating situation:
Were going to do a normal class, with a lab and the whole nine yards! Kelly told her restless students.
Students eye view
While their classmates plodded through an alternative assignment, a handful of students took time out to talk with the Chinook Observer about their understanding of the political standoff, and how legislatures decisions are affecting people who are too young to have a say in the matter.
Sometimes when the government runs out of money they have to do stuff to save money for the rest of the year. I think the Republicans are getting mad that theres not nearly enough money, explained Bell.
I know the government needs to do things and sometimes they need to cancel stuff to do it. This is just one of those times, said eighth-grader Nathan Rankin.
I think a government shut down is when the government runs out of money and they shut down everything like museums and parks and stores, until they raise up enough money. All the people that work for the government dont get paid except for Congress, said seventh-grader Ghannon Whelden.
Eighth-grader Azalie Bart was probably in good company when she gave her refreshingly frank answer.
I honestly have no clue, Bart said.
Bart said that she was surprised to learn that political maneuvering in Washington could affect her directly. Until the field trip got cancelled, the budget crisis seemed like an abstract problem that only concerned adults in faraway places.
I think its kind of selfish of them to do that, Bart said, They probably did realize (it would affect school children), but didnt really take it into consideration.
For Merino and his classmates, the governments inability to reach a consensus feels senseless.
Its not fair. We didnt do anything to make the government shut down. We didnt do anything to deserve it. We didnt kill anyone. Theres no reason to shut it down, Merino said.
Whelden said that the canceled trip did help him understand that this political debate has material and practical consequences for members of his own community.
His parents wont be able to recoup the time and money they spent helping him prepare for the field trip, Whelden pointed out.
I had the jacket, the pants and the boots for it! Then it all got cancelled. I got really mad. All the stuff we got cost a little money and now theres no use for it until the government shut down is over, Whelden said,
I think its a little unfair because Congress makes over a hundred thousand grand and they still get paid. Other people still need the money, but they dont get paid.