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Projects may involve more than you plan for. That's the warning Jottings contributor Marlene O'Brien gives today.

Over the years, I have had many opportunities to volunteer. Many were for charity organizations, some were for political campaigns. But most were spent as a classroom volunteer for both of my children and then for the grandchildren.

The most special opportunity was when volunteers were needed for my son's Outdoor School week. We could attend to our duties and then go with the students to their afternoon class. So my best friend and I rushed to sign up for a Thursday. We could arrive at 10 a.m. to help with the lunch meal, and then go off to learn more of the flora and fauna with the kids.

However, we were in for a big surprise.

Soon after lunch, we were informed that we had to wash and mop the kitchen floor at the camp venue. As explained, this was to be a thorough cleansing of the floors, as camp would end on Friday after the morning meal. My wonderful outdoor school experience was looking at wood floors on my hands and knees and scrubbing them with gusto. Never volunteer on a Thursday at Outdoor School!

A very delightful experience was with the Art Lit program here in our local school district. This was a wonderful experience for the children, but also for the many volunteers. We had instruction on an evening prior to the day scheduled, where we viewed the videos, artist biographies and histories, and then learned of the materials and instructions that we would be using.

The drive to one school at which I volunteered was 23 miles. The teacher had 28 students speaking three different languages, one child with special needs and no aide. She had a unique program to get the children to write. Eight students came to a round table with their notebooks for "Telling Stories Without Speaking." She and I would rotate around the tables and the children would write their stories or notes, hand us the notebook and we would add or reply to them. They could write whatever they wished, but no one could speak. We tried to encourage them by writing replies that required more than a yes or no answer.

At this same school, the children were studying the bridges of Portland. The project ended with each group building one of the bridges. My group had first choice. I strongly urged and proclaimed the values of the Ross Island Bridge — a straight shot over the river. (How easy would that be?) However, my inventive young fifth-graders loved the Steel Bridge with the section that moves up and then back down again. We built it with the meager supplies we acquired, and it only had to move the one time for the presentation. We achieved that, and I quickly moved it to the display table where it would remain.

And then there were the dances. My husband and I chaperoned the prom. I was really eager because I could then watch my son and see what he was doing. He in turn was completely embarrassed to see his parents at this event.

However, our younger son asked us to chaperone the eighth-grade graduation party and dance. This was to be the social event of the school year. The reason? They had rented a fog machine and fog would be wafting throughout the school gym, adding an entirely new atmosphere to the dance.

The fog machine was delivered and the kids started wafting fog immediately. However, there was a glitch in the process. The machine sputtered and spit out a few spouts of fog, but not a steady stream. Try as they might, it just wouldn't work properly. They moved that fog machine to many locations in the gym to try to solve the problem. It did however, leak water all over the gymnasium floor. The kids went off to pizza parties afterwards, and the chaperones were left to mop up the water so the gym floors would not be ruined.

If you are asked to volunteer, check each event to determine if they have any mops hiding anywhere, and then prepare for a fun time. Because no matter what the situation, you will never have a better time than spending it with young people. They are delightful.

Marlene O'Brien is a member of the Jottings group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.

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