Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hit the Deck!

Reading my friend's blog brought back a great memory. I will post his entry below. Back a few years we had the fun of co-leading our summer VBS program for 4-6th graders. He tells the story better than I could:

Hit the deck!

I was on staff as a "Youth and Family Ministerial Intern" at a former church. Each summer I would take a week off of my full time job and spend the time helping with VBS. What ended up happening is that the younger kids would all do an out of the box type VBS curriculum and the pastor and I would take all the older kids ourselves. I think we had 4th, 5th, and 6th graders and we were responsible for the high school helpers. That's right, T, me, and an entire room full of 30 or so hyperactive, sugar-fueled grade school kids. Those who know either me or T know that this is a recipe for wild times. We really wanted to have some cool crafts. No macaroni covered cigar boxes for us. We wanted to make an impact. We were cool and wanted to make sure the kids had a thorough understanding of our coolness. Honestly, the younger kids couldn't wait to get up to our class.

One year the theme had something to do with outer space. 30 some kids, two guys with a bit of a wild streak, what craft would make more sense than to let all the kids build model rockets all week and then launch them on the last day? Makes perfect sense. Kids and class B explosives. What could go wrong? The kids were wide eyed and ecstatic when they heard what the project was going to be. I went to Hobby Lobby and purchased several small model rocket kits. We spend the week with spray paint, razor blades, balsa wood and decals. This was building to a frenzy. I can't begin to convey to you how excited the kids were. The tension was palpable. Word got out, parents were whispering, the other helpers were curious and launch day was approaching. When it finally arrived there was so much excitement you would have thought Bush was speaking at the Southern Baptist Convention. The first two kids placed their rockets on the launch pads, we wired up the engines and began the countdown. The mothers who were helping with the younger kids came up to watch. There were more than a few raised eyebrows. The countdown commenced... "3, 2, 1, fire!"

I should take a moment to explain something about inexpensive small rocket kits. Small things can affect how they fly. They only weigh a few ounces. If someone were to glop on too much paint, put too much weight in the nose cone, little things like that can have a huge impact on performance.

The rockets hissed. One of them shot heavenward. The other one had an issue. It went about six feet in the air, seemed to hover a bit, then went horizontal and began to screech toward the old church building about four feet above the heads of the gathered throngs. Young girls screamed. Young boys cheered. The raised eyebrows furrowed. I will never forget the look that T and I gave to each other. Overland Park, we have a problem.

Being a quick thinker, T decided we would have emergency "Hit the Deck" practice. "When I yell 'hit the deck' you all need to see how fast you can drop to the ground and cover your heads." We practiced a few times... went well - problem solved. About that time we noticed the small break off group of children who had been chasing the one rocket that went heavenward. It began plummeting toward the earth again. I should note that inexpensive small model rockets don't have parachutes. The rocket hit the ground and the pointed nose buried about 3 inches into the hard ground.

"New plan... you all have to stay in one spot until AFTER the rocket lands." I could just see the kid with a rocket buried in the top of their skull. Not good on a resume. Other than the risk to life and limb it was a wild success. there were several occasions when the hit the deck practice paid off.

Of course we learned our lesson. The next year's theme was something about castles or medieval times. "We should build catapults." "That would be sweet." "All the kids could build little ones and then for fun we could build a great big life sized one." "Yeah, with 4 garage door springs and 2x12 lumber." "This is gonna be awesome!"

What could go wrong?


Kampfgruppe Hoppa said...

That's good stuff! It's always good to have battle drills. BTW, did you have the kids' parents sign VBS waivers? --Parents, we are not liable for the malfunction or the cuts, bruises, scrapes, and/or damages caused by the model rockets. Please notify the VBS leaders if you do not have insurance.

Frontier Forest said...

Tony, reading your creative exercises, here is a real idea grabber for holding the kids attention! This year’s VBS, you and Nathan bring your hunting bows, with some of those $15 broad heads, set up some targets and teach the kids how to become great archers for Jesus! You can call the exercise “Spiritual Bow-fare”.
Be sure to use your compound bows, they will be the most effective attention getters.