THE SHUTDOWN (from the coastal tween perspective)

<p>IMS science students Annie Godwin, Trent Ramsey, Ghannon Wheldon and Faith Heddress perform a soil experiment in Mrs. Kelly’s class that was originally planned as part of their National Wildlife Refuge field trip last week. The trip was cancelled due to the government shutdown.</p>

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 they’re 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. Kelly’s second period science class are quick to acknowledge that they don’t 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 don’t care.

But one key point is crystal clear: They don’t think it’s fair that political bickering cost them their first field trip in ages.

Last Thursday morning, the students in Kelly’s 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 don’t 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 everyone’s 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:

“We’re 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 legislature’s 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 there’s 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 don’t 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 it’s kind of selfish of them to do that,” Bart said, “They probably did realize (it would affect school children), but didn’t really take it into consideration.”

For Merino and his classmates, the government’s inability to reach a consensus feels senseless.

“It’s not fair. We didn’t do anything to make the government shut down. We didn’t do anything to deserve it. We didn’t kill anyone. There’s 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 won’t 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 there’s no use for it until the government shut down is over,” Whelden said,

“I think it’s a little unfair because Congress makes over a hundred thousand grand and they still get paid. Other people still need the money, but they don’t get paid.”

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