Am I Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

My favorite part of every program is the last five minutes or so when I give the kids time to ask questions. It's usually pretty predictable what they will ask: "Who won the first Derby?" Aristides; "How old do you have to be to be a jockey?" 16 and "Can girls be jockeys?" absolutely! And then, with the younger kids who don't understand the concept of a question: "My mamaw has a horse and I can ride it." (Uh...OK) Then I visited Longbranch Elementary in Boone County on November 12. After a rousing Economics and the Derby program for the fifth graders, it was time to ask questions. And it was here, that I met my match.  

After a couple of "normal" questions, I called on a boy who asked "How many bones does a Thoroughbred have?" After I got over the "deer in headlights" look, I had to admit I wasn't sure and would have to look it up when I got back to the Museum. On to the next question which was "What percentage of a horse's body is muscle?" Yeah - that coming form a fifth grader. I just looked at him for a second before admitting that I had no idea, and once again, would have to look it up. The last question, thank goodness, was a little more palatable: "How fast can a Thoroughbred run?" (About 40 miles per hour at top speed) 

And upon further research, that answer would be 205 bones and skeletal muscle makes up 45% of a horse''s body weight. Just think of the questions they probably ask the teachers (and their parents). Earlier in the week I made the long, long drive to Murray, Kentucky, to teach at the elementary and middle schools. Murray is a nice college town with the famous Big Apple Cafe which came highly recommended. I'll go ahead and recommend the shrimp enchilada if you're ever in the area. Both schools were great and I look forward to visiting again. But only if they ask easy questions.

Ronnie Dreistadt

Manager of Education Services for the Kentucky Derby Museum.