On Saturday, Canopy students went on a field trip to the Elephant Orphanage and the Giraffe Centre. As part of the summer short-term team, I got to join them. Baby elephants and up-close giraffes are pretty cool in and of themselves, but getting to see them through the eyes of the Canopy kids was amazing!

Our day began piled in two matatus (14-passenger buses). The girls in my matatu sang the entire way there, occasionally pausing to point out the window at a billboard or something interesting on the Nairobi streets. As we drove, we had a few conversations about who had seen what animals in the past. While all of our students are from Kenya, and these are not unusual creatures in this part of Africa, nobody had seen both elephants and giraffes in the past. The field trip offered a great opportunity for exposure to new animals and a deeper understanding of those previously seen.

At the elephant orphanage, guests are invited to come up close to see the elephants as they play together and drink milk from a bottle. Those in the crowd were kind enough to let our students stand close to the barrier, providing front-row seats to see the elephants. The CALVES were so close, the kids were even able to reach out and touch them. Prior to the field trip, students were given a sheet with questions to ask about the animals. When question and answer time came, the students bravely raised their hands to ask questions like, “How much does a baby elephant weigh?” and, “What are two purposes of an elephant’s trunk?”

At the Giraffe Centre, a guide walked the students through an interactive display and introduced them to the giraffes. They were provided pellets to feed the giraffes out of their hands and, for those especially courageous, from their mouths. Janet, who is in Class 4, told me the giraffes were her favorite part of the day because of their beautiful coloring. She was also impressed with how large the giraffes were because she had heard they would be babies. While some of the giraffes were pregnant, all of the ones we interacted with were full-grown adults, measuring up to 18 feet tall (or as Kenyans would say it, 5.5 meters).

American children are familiar with field trips. They are something they do at least 1–2 times a year. Through these experiences, students get to see places they wouldn’t otherwise and learn about the world through hands-on experiences. In Kenya, especially in the rural communities where our kids live, a child can go through their entire school experience and never once have the opportunity to go on a field trip. When we returned to school yesterday, it was awesome to hear the students talking about the things they had seen, touched, and heard—the feel of the elephant’s rough skin . . . the giraffe’s slimy tongue . . . the smell when the elephant passed gas not even a foot from their faces. After all, there’s nothing like learning that’s up-close-and-personal!

Check out the pictures below for some snapshots from our day: