This morning, I went to the Echo Center with my oldest son, Liam, and 18 of his third-grade classmates to learn about “Ecology, Culture, History and Opportunity” in the Champlain Basin.

We rode in a school bus, which was louder than I remember it being.  Much louder.  But it was worth it—if only to observe the following exchange:

“What are these pictures examples of?” asked the Echo Center instructor brightly.suburbiaGroup of adorable toddlers looking at somethingtraffic

Blank stares. Scuffling feet.  I glanced over at Liam to find him surreptitiously trying to retrieve a plastic ax from under his seat (it was a prop).  Realizing that she had stumped the crowd, the instructor started the word for the kids, drawing the syllable out in a sing-song, “It’s PUH….”

You could almost see the light bulbs popping over their heads.  “POLLUTION!” they screamed.

“Uh, no,” she said, looking startled, then deflated.  “I…was looking for…POPULATION.”

Same difference, really.