Archive for Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dr. Seuss characters, Baby Jay entertain at reading night

Christi Darnell, center, parents as teachers organization president, introduces Kansas University mascot Baby Jay during one of the programs at the Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center last Thursday. The evening was designed around making reading fun for students.

Christi Darnell, center, parents as teachers organization president, introduces Kansas University mascot Baby Jay during one of the programs at the Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center last Thursday. The evening was designed around making reading fun for students.

February 3, 2011

Although Kansas University basketball player Tyrel Reed couldn't make it to Baldwin City last Thursday, a pair of Dr. Seuss characters and a KU mascot entertained the local elementary students.

The Patent Teacher Organizations of Baldwin Elementary School Primary and Intermediate Centers Parent invited special guests to the reading night. The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant and Baby Jay had audiences smiling and laughing at the new BESPC.

“It exceeded our expectations,” BESPC and BESIC PTO President Christi Darnell said. “We were thrilled that so many families were able to come out Thursday night. The goal of the PTO is to promote the school’s community, so we were thrilled with the turnout.”

BESPC Principal Deb Ehling-Gwin said organizers were thrilled with the response.

“It was a huge crowd,” she said. “We had no idea how many to expect. We didn’t really have idea how it would turn out, but it went great.”

KU senior guard Reed, was to be at the event. However, the KU men’s basketball team traveled to Washington ,D.C., last Thursday for the funeral of Thomas Robinson’s mother.

With those changes coming at the last minute, Darnell managed to bring a slice of KU athletics to Baldwin City anyway. Baby Jay, one of the two KU mascots, and two Rock Chalk dancers, Brooke and Molly Ryan, entertained crowds in the gymnasium. They also took pictures with the children and parents after each session.

“Oh my gosh, the kids loved it,” Darnell said. “I think Tyrel Reed would have been great to have at the school, but we were thrilled that Baby Jay saved the day at the last minute”

While the KU mascot and dancers entertained crowds in the gym, the Seussical the Musical characters read to children and families in the classrooms. Cat in the Hat and Horton returned from the Baldwin City Community Theater’s summer musical to read at the PTO sponsored event. The two Seussical characters took turns reading a Dr. Seuss classic that focuses on rhyming.

“Joe Bathke (Horton) and Scott Schoenberger (Cat in the Hat) have kids in the school, and they are supportive of anything in the community,” Darnell said. “They were a must have. We had them in costume. They did a read-off with ‘Fox in Socks.’ The kids just giggled, because they were so much fun.”

The pair of Baldwin City fathers even inspired one student to check out a library book.

“One parent told me their child never wanted to go to the library or read on his or her own. Then after being in that room, they requested to go to the library and get a Dr. Seuss book. That made all of the work worthwhile.”

Ehling-Gwin said one grandmother found she needed to step up when reading to grandchildren..

“I had one grandmother tell me that earlier in the week she had read ‘The Cat in the Hat’ with her grand daughter,” Ehling-Gwin said. “They went to watch him read last night and she realized she needed to beef up her act.”

There was one other reader at the elementary school last week. Drew Cheek, who also performed in Seussical the Musical, portrayed a character from “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” Cheek read portions of the book to the audiences.

The final act of the night was a “Science City: Force in Motion” stage production. It was done by Burns and McDonnell Engineering, which has a laboratory at Science City at Union Station in Kansas City, Mo.

The presentation taught students about gravity, forces and different types of motion. Several students were chosen as volunteers to help demonstrate different scientific principles.

“It was so great to watch the kids’ faces,” Darnell said. “They loved him. They were very interactive, and he kept their attention the whole time.”

The idea for the night was derived from Darnell and her committee of three other parents. Darnell said her sister in Lawrence had a similar night at their school, so she suggested it to the principals, who liked the idea.

“It’s been in the planning stages for a while,” Ehling-Gwin said. “During the past several years, the Primary Center and Intermediate Center have had family reading or math nights. Sometimes we had them both, depending on funding that year. We had a grant the first year, but the grant’s over now and funds have become more scarce. It’s always been teacher led and planned in the past. This was the first time that PTO planned it all, and they had a focus on reading.”

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