When a bunch of students band together to attack their teachers with silly string, one might assume the principal would be busy handing out detentions.
But when that happened at Downes Elementary School on Friday, the teachers were willing victims – and Principal Anne Park was front and center.
The silly string barrage, which sparked shrieks of joy from the hundreds of kids packed into the Downes cafeteria, was the students’ reward for exceeding the school’s goal in the annual Shark Pride Stride fundraiser. The October walkathon raises money for the PTA and is intended to be an easier, healthier alternative to a traditional candy sale fundraiser.
Park promised the students that if the school exceeded the $25,000 goal, she would dress up as a superhero and every student who raised at least $200 would get to spray their teachers with silly string.
The students raised $32,000, so on the final day before Christmas break, Park carried through with her promises. She greeted kids in the morning while dressed as a character from “The Incredibles,” and in the afternoon, the silly string war commenced during an all-school assembly.
A dozen teachers and staff members donned rain ponchos and goggles and sat on the stage while 66 students lined up for their turn to douse teachers in colored foam.
The students’ excitement and determination was evident as they waited for their cue to begin.
“One was bearing his teeth at me,” Park recalled, laughing as she picked pieces of silly string off her shirt after the assembly. “Another one, a quiet little thing, just got this look on her face and was steady squirting me.”
Park seemed to be the students’ favorite target and ended up almost completely covered with silly string.
“It was so cold,” she said. “I was not expecting that.”
Fifth-grader Charlotte Berk-Lofts was the top fundraiser, collecting $550 from her grandmother and other family members. She said she enjoyed spraying her teachers with silly string, noting that she practiced her technique at a friend’s birthday party a few weeks ago.
“It was fun to see their reaction,” she said. “They were all really surprised.”
Second-grader James Muzzi said he had fun, too.
“I was aiming for some people,” he noted.
Connie Spedden, the physical education teacher at Downes and coordinator of the fundraiser, said she hopes the silly string event motivates even more kids to participate in next year’s fundraiser, which funds the PTA and a number of other initiatives for the school.
“We want to make it a memorable event to build excitement for next year,” Spedden said.
Even more importantly, Park said, a lighthearted activity like that helps students see their teachers in a new light.
“It just changes their outlook on us,” she said. “It makes us more human.”