"Mom, Dad, is there really a Moon Bounce and Magician at JPDS-NC?"
July 14, 2016 by
My husband Ken and I love hosting the JPDS-NC Summer Brunch for families of new students and students entering Kindergarten and Pre-Kindergarten. We love power-washing the outside of our home, planting new flowers in our garden, shopping for the best bagels and lox in town, hearing the moon bounce as it is filled with air and bounce, and finding the latest and most entertaining magician. But, am I doing a disservice to the incoming four- and five-year-olds who, on the first day of school, wonder why there is no moon-bounce and magician at JPDS-NC?
The brunch is a bonding opportunity. New students meet future classmates and friends. Parents expand their social circles. Play dates are arranged, bagels are eaten, children meet one another while playing tether-ball, basketball, jumping on the moon bounce, or marveling at the latest magic trick. Each year, children leave happy with a new friend or two and parents begin their journey, blanketed in the warmth of a JPDS-NC welcome. They leave with email addresses and cell phone numbers. Soon come the invitations for Shabbat dinners, meetings at pools, parks, and puppet shows.
Yet sometimes on the first day, students will approach me while half-hiding behind their parent, and softly whisper, “Miss Udell, where is the JPDS moon-bounce?” I used to feel guilty… am I letting them down? After all, who wants to come to school instead of a picnic with bagels, moon bounces, and magicians? After a few years of pondering this, I had an “ah ha” moment. No, it isn’t a let down at all. The only disappointment was in my inability to explain to five-year-olds the exciting world that is about to unfold, one to which no moon-bounce can compare. For example, last year’s Kindergarten had the chance to solve a real-world challenge involving the South Campus library. After interviewing teachers, administrators, and students at the South Campus, they learned that the Kindergarten library needed improvement. Some books were missing, some were out of order, and there was no shelf for the students’ original works. What followed was a rich investigation that included visits to the Library of Congress and local libraries, as well as discussions with library experts and users. Next came the action plan initiated by the children who worked collaboratively. They devised plans on how they would fix the library and then promptly set out to do it. Measurements were taken; designs were drawn; prototypes were crafted, and at last, new book islands were built and comfortable spaces were created. All this was done by five-year-olds who were supported by their teachers, as together they dreamed, researched, initiated, iterated, and executed a plan to renovate their library. I am excited for the learning that our new – and returning – students will experience when they come to JPDS-NC this fall. I, for one, can’t wait to see what they will discover, create, and accomplish in the coming year.