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The animals at the SF Zoo love Town School too.

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The Town School community is top notch when it comes to connecting for the purpose of helping others.  The groups that sign up are always enthusiastic, excited and ready to roll up their sleeves and help.  The rewards are plentiful and sometimes even surprising.  Read below to see how the HOT (Helping Our Town) group prepared presents for the animals at the SF Zoo and what the Zoo did to thank them. Thank you Rachel Hollister for sharing your experience.

“My boys and I recently attended a HOT (Helping Our Town) event and had an amazing time. HOT is new to Town School and has been created for our Town community to have an opportunity to help people, animals and organizations in the San Francisco area. It is another way for us to reach out and help others.

On Sunday, November 20th, a large group of us met at the San Francisco Zoo. We had arrived to plant a vegetable garden that would provide extra food for the animals. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain but there was a wonderful back up plan.  Instead, we met in the old Mother’s Building (originally built for mothers and their children). In the building, the Zoo members had different stations set up for our children and us.

We soon found ourselves either making “edible” paste, taking tape off of large packaging boxes, or wrapping the large boxes with holiday wrapping paper and using the “edible” paste to adhere the paper to the boxes. These were being created for the animals as a Holiday Treat. The Zoo members will fill the boxes with various treats and the animal’s job will be to unwrap and find the treats inside. We were told that the animals love this and it is another way of entertainment for them.

All of the boys, siblings, moms, dads and even grandparents were excited to help out. There was a wonderful amount of enthusiasm in the room and I have to say it was a great way to start off the Holiday Season! Plus, the Zoo surprised us with complimentary ice-skating and carousel rides to thank the Town School group. Definitely a very fun and productive morning!

A huge “Thank you” to Lisa Zanze and Lindsay Bolton for organizing this event! We will definitely look forward to the next one!”

Mark your calendars, the next HOT event is Sunday, January 29th at the San Francisco Food Bank from 12:20 – 2:30.  Hope to see you there!

Extended Day respects traditions – even when it involves hanging donuts from the ceiling!

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Nicky DeCesare is the director of the After School Program and Town School and has the pleasure of experiencing the boys in their most playful moods. She is a master at wrangling their after school energy and loves that so many boys like to come hang out even if their parents do not need them to be there.   When she first took the helm two years ago she caught on right away to the power of the Extended Day traditions.  So, when we asked her to share with us what she loves about her job, she knew just the story to tell.

“This past Halloween, I spent the majority of the afternoon hanging three dozen donuts from the ceiling of our classroom with the amazing Extended Day Team (Dain Vogel ‘98, and Caitlin Bicknell). As I stood high atop the back of a chair, hands covered in donut glaze, struggling to tie an anchor string from the highest point in the room, a fellow faculty member stopped in the doorway to admire our spectacle. After a few minutes of careful observation, he asked the obvious question: “So why do you do this again?”

Great question. There is, of course, the obvious answer: Because it’s fun! There is something about a donut dangling from a string that creates the perfect storm of silly and delicious and puts a smile on the face of every single person who walks into our classroom on Halloween, regardless of age.

But the real answer is more than that.

When I took over the position of Director of After School Programs four years ago, the boys, eager to know how things would be different (and how they would remain the same) without founding director Elaine Blair, started asking questions almost immediately. “Are we still gonna do the donut thing on Halloween?”

I had no idea what they were talking about. I had spent my first two years at Town as an intern teacher in the lower school, and had not been privy to the rituals of the Extended Day Program. Thankfully, I had Stefanie Stoddard, a five year Extended Day veteran teacher, by my side. “What are they talking about?!” I asked her.

“Oh,” she answered. “Every Halloween, we hang donuts from the ceiling and the boys have to try to bite them without using their hands.”

I was baffled. In my mind, the headache I had from running through the logistics of executing such a feat for more than thirty boys over the course of 3 hours (at the end of the day. ON HALLOWEEN.) could certainly not outweigh the benefits. Until I thought a little harder about the true purpose.

We needed to do it because it was a tradition. Like so many traditions, it’s more about the feeling than the actual act itself. Elaine manufactured a little bit of Halloween magic when she first decided to start the tradition of bobbing for donuts in Extended Day, and it’s recreating that magic that fosters a feeling of connection; between the boys and our program, their school, a certain place and time during the year, and each other.  It is, like so many here at Town, a tradition that started long before the arrival of us who continue it, and will hopefully continue on as long as it serves its true purpose, which, for Extended Day, is to create a warm, fun, safe, enriching environment for our boys after-school.

I love that our Upper School boys will come back and visit on Halloween – they help tie donuts to strings, demonstrate the most effective “donut-bobbing” techniques, and tell ridiculous stories of “that time in third grade when we were bobbing for donuts and…” (use your imagination to fill in how that story ends!) It’s something that our boys look forward to every year – they start asking about it in early September, and talk about it all the way through June. While we create our traditions, they shape our identity as a community as much as we do them. I am proud to be part of a community of faculty, administrators, families, and students that strives to create, shape and maintain traditions that act in the best interest of our boys, their growth, their learning, their emotional well-being, and their connection to their school. And sometimes, that can be as simple as donuts.