Dec. 3, 2018, Staff Report
On Tuesday, Nov. 20, a non-profit known as the SuperYou FUNdation (SYF) held a family-friendly, superhero-themed event at P.S. 239 designed to bond parents with their children.
“The Super You FUN Extravaganza” began with parents entering the Title-One K-5 school at 4 p.m , where they received a brief summary of the evening’s activities and were directed to meet their children at the entrance of the school’s gymnasium. There, students led their parents inside the gym to the sight of dozens of tables, where hundreds of capes, decorative flair and art supplies were laid out for the school’s visitors.
School staff and over 100 SYF volunteers collectively called “The Love Train” superheroes greeted families and split them up into various rooms — the cape making room, the science room, the dance room, and the cafeteria for catered food. They explained to parents that they were going to become superheroes for a day. The first thing they had to do, however, was to identify their unique “superpowers.”
“We asked student[s] to identify the ‘superpowers’ of their parents. So, students shared heartwarming stories about their parents’ kindness, courage, resilience, [or] love. Then, the students and parents joined together to come up with their parents’ superhero names and design [their costumes],” said Lourds Lane, founder of the SuperYou FUNdation.
Families then walked up to each table and picked up supplies to design personalized capes and costumes for their newfound identities. Parents joined their kids at predetermined work spaces in the gym to work collaboratively on a task designed to promote familial bonding.
“This particular school has been actively searching for ways to engage parents in their students’ lives and education. While brainstorming with the administration last year, we knew that if we invited parents to a social emotional workshop with their child, no one would show up. But, an epic superhero bonding event with music, dance, art, food, and fun would most certainly get parents in the door. In the end, it still is social emotional learning, but disguised in superhero masks,” Lane said.
Once children and their parents designed and adorned their new costumes, they were invited to a nearby classroom to participate in ‘superhero science experiments’ led by SYF staffer Richard Calvache. There, families witnessed and then performed elementary lab experiments using dyes, baking soda, and other rudimentary science materials. Alternatively, parents and students could attend the “dance room” where family teams created their own unique dance to the “SuperYou Rap,” a poem the children know from the curriculum.
The evening’s event culminated with participants gathering in the auditorium, where Lane invited families to share their new “superpowers” with the crowd. For a student known as “Bright Girl,” she accomplished this by sharing her knowledge on a myriad of different school subjects from math to reading, impressing the audience with how many books she read over the past year.
Lastly, Lourds sang and played electric violin as she invited parents and students to the stage to dance and sing songs from the curriculum. She performed as her superhero self, “Shine,” whose “superpower” is “Love.”
Over 300 parents and 200 children participated in the SuperYou FUN Extravaganza, which was the only collaborative event between parents and kids of this proportion that the Ridgewood school has held in recent memory, according to School Counselor Jeannine Brugge.
Volunteers also gained a lot from the event, such as one who had a personal reason to get involved.
“Growing up, my biological father was not very involved in my life, so I wish I had a program like this to help bond us together,” said Saya Baker. “I think its amazing that Lourds developed this program to help empower kids and to help kids do something with their parents that they’ll always remember.”
Using the “superheroes” trope as an entry point to viscerally connect with students — with the added hooks of original music, art, writing, dance, and presentation — the SuperYou FUNdation also offers schools a year-round curriculum designed to inspire collaboration and foster a school culture of high self-esteem, empathy, tolerance, and respect.
As a result of the SuperYou program, Lourds Lane said that quantitative and qualitative data has been compiled that clearly indicates a dramatic and correlating increase in test scores, positive behavioral trends and student participation in schools that have adopted the curriculum, as well as a decrease of violent school incidents.
“SuperYou is a wonderful curriculum that has taught our students to identify what makes them special, which has built confidence and transformed our students to become more mindful of their own qualities as well as the qualities of others,” said P.S. 239 principal Michelle Dzwonek.
According to Lane, the SuperYou FUNdation has positively impacted over 100 schools and reached thousands of youth worldwide.
Educators and principals who might be interested in bringing SYF into their schools can reach The SuperYou FUNdation by sending an e-mail to [email protected].
More information can be found by visiting the SuperYou FUNdation website here.