On the Journey
news reel: stories of People, places, and learning AT Aspen Country Day School
Remarkable things happen every day at Aspen Country Day School, and most of them involve students and adults working together. It's especially heartwarming, though, when children come up with their own ideas and actually make them happen independently. That was the magic of Friday's "Evening of Entertainment."
A large and enthusiastic audience of parents and friends came to Edlis-Neeson right after school to see some courageous classmates brave the stage for performances that included dog tricks, singing, dancing, gymnastics, and the magic acts of the organizers, Sixth Graders Duncan S. and Leo H.
But more than the showmanship on stage, it was the DIY attitude of the students that made this a different kind of event. Not polished, not perfect, but absolutely charming. And inspiring, because the spirit of these young organizers and performers is so bright and full of hope.
From the start, when the two Sixth Graders had the idea to raise money for a favorite ACDS charity, the Shining Stars Foundation, this was an entirely student-led event. Director of Advancement Mark Bell gave the go-ahead and provided moral and logistical support, but from start to finish, students were in charge – even down to the name "Evening of Entertainment," which they stuck with even when it was pointed out that the 3:30 start was technically afternoon.
And so when the music accompanying one singer wouldn't start on cue, or when the dogs didn't always jump through their hoops, or when the show had to take a pause until one performer's mom arrived, they just rolled with it. "Who has a joke to tell?" asked emcee Leo H., ad-libbing gracefully. Shelby G. jumped to the mic. "Why did the chicken go to the playground? Anyone? Anyone?" Dozens of hands waved from the audience. Someone called out, "To get to the other slide!"
For teachers and parents looking on, there was a lot of emotion in the room. Pride for the performers, nostalgia for how quickly they're growing up, and performance anxiety on their behalf. And so when Duncan announced several times that they were having "technical difficulties," it was tempting to step in and help – yet no grownups did, and the kids figured it out for themselves.
This is exactly the "I trust you to solve your own problems" stance that's advocated in a thoughtful new book published this winter, The Self-Driven Child. Authors William Stixrud, PhD, and Ned Johnson subtitled their book the science and sense of giving your kids more control over their lives. This, they say, is often "just plain hard. It takes courage to trust a child to make decisions, to trust in a child's brain development, to ignore the pressures that cause us to protect our children from themselves, or to be overly involved in their lives."
The Evening of Entertainment raised $415 for Shining Stars, which brings children with life-threatening illnesses to Aspen for restorative holidays. Thanks to Duncan, Leo, and all the performers – and also to parents and teachers who sometimes simply stand aside to support and admire all that children can accomplish on their own.