Deerfield sixth-graders mingle at school bash
Eleven-year-old Sam Schurgin of Deerfield races to make it back to his team with his marshmallow undisturbed Sept. 20 during Shepard Middle School's sixth-grade bash. | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 4, 2012 2:02PM
DEERFIELD — Adjusting to junior high after six years of elementary school can be difficult, so Shepard Middle School parents and staff came up with a plan to make the transition a little less stressful.
About a month after starting the sixth grade, Shepard students — who came from feeder schools Kipling and Walden elementary schools— were invited after school Sept. 21 to an ice breaker bash where they had to mingle.
This affair was not just a get-together in the school gym where they hung out with their elementary school friends. Instead, it was coordinated effort by parent volunteers and organizers, who split the kids up into teams, so they could compete with each other in games like tug of war.
Parents made sure that the students were not placed on teams with their friends, so they’d have to make alliances with new students, explained Lori Ruskin, a Deerfield resident who was a parent organizer of the bash. She put together a similar event two years ago when her older child entered the sixth grade at Shepard. This year, her daughter Marley started in the sixth grade, so she again helped organize the event, she said.
“We really did the best we could to evenly distribute the kids, so no friends were put together,” Ruskin said. “That’s because the whole purpose is for the kids to meet each other and get to know each other.”
About 98 percent of this year’s sixth grade, totaling 160 students, attended the annual event, carrying the new Shepard school tradition into its fifth year, Ruskin said.
Besides the games, students also could enter raffles if they brought nonperishable items for a food bank. Ten winners were picked out of a fishbowl with many winning “Shepard spirit wear,” shirts and shorts with Shepard Middle School stamped on them, Ruskin explained.
The bash went off in a similar fashion as it had in past years with one exception — it was held indoors this year. Usually, the students congregated outside to play the games, but the weather had other plans and the rain moved the entire operation inside.
Once the students who were split into 14 teams, the games began in the school’s multipurpose room, gym and adjacent hallway, Ruskin said. But the kids didn’t seem to notice.
“They told us they loved it,” Ruskin said. “I don’t even think they knew it was supposed to be outside.”
Ruskin’s daughter, 11-year-old Marley, agreed that the event was well-received among her peers. She added that she had a great time at the bash, especially the tug of war and marshmallow toss games.
“I met a lot of new people that had gone to a different (elementary school),” Marley said. “We’d see our friends on the opposite team and we’d compete against them. It was really fun.”