CPE 5th graders picked up over fifty pounds of trash during our Adopt-a-Street clean-ups last week. Room 15 kids collected over eight pounds between the skate park and Pine Street, while Mrs. Torrey’s kids discovered that 2nd Street from the school to Pine is rather filthy. They gathered twenty pounds. Hadley’s class covered the longest street, Hopkins from 4th all the way to Glengrove, and they amassed over twenty pounds of mostly micro trash such as napkins, cigarette butts, and paper cups. Central Point is cleaner thanks to our fifth graders, and hopefully the kids are learning the value of not being litter bugs themselves.

Awards and Congratulations

What a great bunch of kids in Room 15 this year!

Congratulations to our Room 15 Students-of-the-Month for September Megan V. and Brody C.! Many students have been demonstrating super positive behavior, showing good character, and strong work ethic, but these two have been exceptional.

Congrats also to our newly-elected Student Council Representatives Gunnir Y. and Riley L., as well as to alternate Lola T. The voting was very close, with all seven candidates receiving multiple votes. Gunnir and Riley will be attending their first meeting soon.

Kudos also to all our Perfect Attendance kids: Jose, Brison, Tahlor, Brody, Kenzie G., Zoe, Cristian, Parker, Alie, Bethany, Kaidyn, Brook, Megan, Kenzie, V., Garrett, and Gunnir.Way to go, kids!

This Week’s Super Sentences

Kids, show us your Super Sentence here by clicking on “reply” or “comment” and typing your corrected sentence in the comment box. You’ll need to provide your real first name, the initial for your last name, and your correct email address. Remember, everything you type is visible to the world, so make sure it is appropriate and correct. Don’t forget you capitals and endmark!

Back-to-School Night

Come join us in Room 15 for our Back-to-School Night presentation this Thursday (Sept. 12). The room will be open for general visitation from 6 to 6:20. At 6:25 I’ll give a detailed presentation about how fifth grade “works,” and at 7:10 I’ll be around for questions. This is your chance to make sure you fifth grader gets off on the right foot, so be sure to attend. The most important piece will be the presentation at 6:40, so if you’re attending multiple classrooms, please try to be in Room 15 for the 6:40 session. Thanks!

Summer Adventures

Kids, what have you been doing with yourselves? Whether a recent Room 15 Kid or an old SVE Room 3 Rotter, send me a picture or two and a paragraph about your summer travels and adventures, and I’ll post them here on the Platy! Here are a couple of pics from one of my summer trips, a backpacking trip in Lassen National Park with my teacher friends Mr. Hadley, Mr. Jenkins (from SVE), and Mr. Lunte (from Jewett).

Here I am with “Molly,” my new bear vault. It’s named after Molly because she and her family gave my an REI gift certificate to put toward it. Now, whenever I’m protecting my vittles from backcountry bears, I’ll always think of Molly!
Mr. Jenkins at Rainbow Lake (check out the reflection  in his glasses. That's me!)
Mr. Jenkins at Rainbow Lake. (Check out the reflection in his glasses. That’s me!)
Mr. Hadley atop Lassen Peak, about 10,500 feet up!
Mr. Hadley atop Lassen Peak, about 10,500 feet up!
Mr. Lunte hiking through the forest to Snag Lake.
Mr. Lunte hiking through the forest to Snag Lake. We hiked about 33 miles altogether, including climbs to the top of Lassen Peak and Cinder Cone.

Never Work with Kids or Animals

There’s an old adage in Hollywood that says, “Never work with kids or animals.”

Most people have never tried to stage a musical with kids (or animals), so few can comprehend how challenging it is, but what we pulled off with our “Newsies Against the World” musical was really a minor miracle.  Here are a few details you may not have noticed:

There weren’t any adults back stage. The kids did everything on their own. Logan was running the lightboard, a system which can boggle the minds of adults. She had to know which spotlights to bring up and when to dim them, and she handled it all perfectly. Addison was running the music. It may seem simple to merely push play and pause and adjust the volume during the spoken lines, but when she was absent from class one day and someone else tried to do it, it made a mess of our practice. You also might not have noticed that Addison used her singing voice to help keep the actors on stage in sync. Her work was critical to the success of the show. Accolades need to be given to Courtney, too. She was the dance captain and choreographer for the “Sidewalks of New York” song.  That a quiet fifth grader could put something like that together is amazing—especially given that her male classmates don’t like to dance and that my class can often be inattentive and sassy. No wonder “Sidewalks” is my favorite part of the show.

Set changes have to be coordinated and practiced. Just getting Luke’s soap box on and off the stage without a fuss was a critical detail. In addition to their acting duties, Owen and Jaylee maneuvered the soap box, the circulation window, and the “alley” flawlessly. You barely noticed them! They were almost professional in their work. Nor did you notice our Newsie extras, such as Lui, DeAna, Molly, and Nico, getting bundles of papers off stage and out of the way. Props in general can be a handful, but imagine how hard it would be to push around a twelve foot trolley car? Devin’s scene with our cardboard trolley was difficult to create, yet he handled it masterfully, ringing the bell, delivering his lines, and reaching for his change all while steering the thing through a narrow exit off stage. Impressive!

Entering and exiting the stage is frequently problematic for young actors. Kids usually tend to stumble in and out, but our Newsies disappeared like ninjas.  How on earth did Annie get from singing and dancing during “Ta Ra Ra” to standing at the west side musicless room door by the end of the scene? If you watch carefully during the video of the show, you’ll see Annie, Lilly, Haydn, and others slip off stage in ways that allowed the audience to instead focus on the incoming action.

Missed cues, misspoken lines, and other surprises can derail a play in a hurry. While the audience may have noticed two such moments, there were a dozen others to which the kids were able to adapt.  One that you probably did notice happened when one student apparently got a case of “stage fright” and didn’t come out. Jaylee and Maryfer reacted calmly, smoothly proceeding in an effort to cover up the other student’s error.   

Our Newsies script was geared for older students. It originally appeared in an issue of Scope magazine, Scholastic’s classroom language arts magazine for middle schoolers. I complicated it that much more by adapting it as a musical, so it’s really quite remarkable a group of fifth graders was able to do so well with it. The amount of memorization alone was tremendous! Luke, Riley, Jenny, Annie, Tyler, Lilly, Valerie, and Haydn all had lengthy and complex lines to learn.  Bringing personality to those lines was even tougher. Luke’s enthusiastic rendition of Sully and Will’s spirited portrayal of Hearst set a high standard for the others to follow. And Annie, well, I handed her a challenge that would flummox most fifth graders: that of singing a spotlighted solo a mere five feet from the audience. You can bet it took uncommon bravery, grit, and determination to do that!

And before you go thinking the kids were a little off key once in awhile, please remember that D6 doesn’t have much of a music program these days. These students only get six or seven class sessions of music per year, and most of that isn’t dedicated to learning how to sing. Their growth this trimester has been exceptional. Oh, if you had heard the kids sing “Hot Times” back in February! Had you heard them sing “When You’re Smilin’” even just a couple weeks ago—you might have gone running from the room! Their performance is even more impressive given that, due to state testing, we had only limited access to the music room and stage.

Whoever said, “Never work with kids or animals,” must not have ever had the thrill of seeing something like this come together. When you look at all the little details, you realize the kids created something pretty darn special. It’ll certainly go down as one of the highlights of my career.