1. Oregon Trail
Guys, how adorable was it that adults thought Oregon Trail was educating us in the least bit? Yeah, we learned that dysentery was a bad thing because it wiped out half of our crew but aside from that it was all about the hunting, target practice mode. Also, it was cool to enter friends’ names and laugh when our poor performance resulted in their computerized deaths.
Computer Activity Honorable Mention: Number Munchers, Math Blasters and Storybook Weaver.
2. Scholastic Book Orders
Grownups chose our lunches, made our schedules and directed 98% of our actions so there was something appealing about making independent selections at our young age. The funny thing is that aside from Where’s Waldo, Berenstain Bears and the popular ones, (e.g. Stellaluna, The Rainbow Fish, The Stinky Cheese Man, etc.) many weren’t big readers until the catalog came around. Then all of a sudden we wanted to dabble and read everything and parents have a hard time saying “no” to requests for books.
3. Unique Classroom Utensils
Two specific products come to mind. We had the smelly version of Skittles, Mr. Sketch Scented Markers and the often-banned Gel Pens. Let’s address those delicious smelling markers first. It’s hard to accomplish simple tasks like coloring when you can’t help but indulge in the art tool’s fragrance. They killed productivity but we didn’t mind. As awesome as they were, it was frustrating to have the colors of the rainbow dotted on your nostrils after getting a little too close and personal with these nose appetizers.
The Gel Pen era lasted about as long as its quick fading glitter ink. Many teachers hated the lack of visibility and permanence so they banned ‘em from school assigned work. That didn’t stop kids from decorating notes and origami fortunetellers with their enchanted pens.
4. Lunch Experiences
If you ate school food you’re probably still digesting the mystery meat they served up. That or the mediocre square pizza that cafeterias across the country offered. It wasn’t the worst but it wasn’t great either. Like if DiGiorno gave up.
Brown baggers and lunch boxers who packed their meals from home dealt with a whole different ballgame. One that was much more appealing. One with identifiable meat and falsely labeled “fruit stuff.” There were “fruit” juices that a number of brands made in undersized bottles, pouches and boxes (Kool-Aid Bursts, Capri Sun, Hi-C). They were tasty but had so little liquid that we had to portion our sip to sandwiches ratio very carefully. Then there were the “fruit” snacks (Gushers, Roll-ups, By The Foot) that were fan favorites and often involved in blockbuster deals when it was time for lunch trades. Whatever types of meals you ate, lunchtime was enjoyable and the only thing on this list guaranteed to happen every single day.
5. That Weird Thing Everyone Did With Glue
Isn’t just about everyone guilty of covering their hands in glue at some point, then letting it dry and peeling it? This is one of those weird, bubble wrap type pleasures.
6. The Occasional Sick Day
Whether you were legitimately sick or spitting chewed up crackers in the toilet to make your lie seem legit, the general plan of activity was the same. The Price Is Right. If we had bucket lists back in 4th grade, playing Plinko and spinning that big wheel would’ve made just about everyone’s top desires (along with taking a stab at Legends of the Hidden Temple). This show should also be credited for teaching us/making us ask our parents what it means to spay and neuter pets. This series alone made missing a day of school worth it. Not to mention the refreshment of a lazy day off, doing nothing more than reading Highlights and watching TV was the best medicine – whether you were really sick or not.
7. Heads Up, Seven Up
Almost everyone cheated by glancing at shoes as they walked by. Some were better than others at being discreet, but it was commonplace to cheat. Sneaker peeking was to Heads Up, Seven Up what steroid are to baseball. If you played an honest game, kudos to you but you probably didn’t guess correctly very often. It was almost procedure for everyone to hit the thumb of a crush or a person they seldom spoke to – never a best friend’s because that’s just poor gameplay.
8. Bill Nye The Science Guy
BILL, BILL, BILL! Ah, man – Bill Nye is responsible for everything I know about science. Now that’s not much, but it would probably be nothing without him. If you’re going to learn about stuff, do you want to mess with platform scales, microscopes and graduated cylinders or have a quirky, rapping genius spit hot fire in the form of educating lyrics? I’ll take the scientist Eminem any day and many 90s kids can say the same. This show was something to actually look forward to in class on a daily basis.
9. Parachute Day
One parachute. Multiple games. Need I say more? Probably not, but I’m going to anyway because this was the most exciting day of the school year. Whether you were popular, a nerd, a bully or an athlete, everyone was delighted and united on this day. You want to make world peace? Gather the leaders of every nation into a gym and have ‘em play with a colorful parachute for an hour. I promise everyone will come out allies. Sure it was simple – nothing more than a giant parachute, but it was responsible for a rare shared laugh between bullies and their victims.
10. Anytime A TV And VCR Made An Appearance
That meant we were “watching” something. And by “watching,” I mean passing notes, chattering, being shushed, babbling some more, discussing the close call in yesterday’s episode of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, administering cootie shots with no license, etc. This hasn’t changed a ton. When our adult jobs hold meetings and there’s a TV/DVD setup, that same hit-the-jackpot feeling fills us. The (small) possibility of watching a video in class gave many of us hope on the way to school, although it was oft followed by disappointment. But every morning it was a “So you’re saying there’s a chance?” situation.