The excitement that poured out of every classroom at Rodgers Forge Elementary School on Thursday morning, Oct. 18, wasn't for the fact that those classrooms would be empty the next day (school would be out Friday for a teacher in-service session), but rather for something greatly anticipated each year on the school calendar.
More than 375 grandparents and relatives visited Rodgers Forge on Thursday for the school's annual Generations Day celebration, which allows older family members — grandparents, aunts, uncles or other older role models — to see what their young students are up to each day and enjoy a morning in the classroom.
"The teachers do a fabulous job of including the grandparents into their lessons, and the kids all have a great time," said Katy Annis, Rodgers Forge Elementary PTA member and Generations Day chairwoman. "It's a beloved event."
Throughout the schoolhouse, teachers found unique ways to show off their students' skills. In her kindergarten class, Jennifer Piet had her students show their grandparents the song they learned to memorize the months of the year, then went through their daily day-of-the-week exercises. Later, they broke up into activities at small tables, with the kindergartners eager to work side-by-side with their guests.
In her class, kindergarten teacher Debby Hughey and her students read a story to the grandparents, and Terry Guth's kindergartners and visiting grandparents sang songs to each other.
Jennifer Erdman's second-graders played board games and worked on art projects with the visitors, while other teachers put the visiting grandparents to work. Bernice Coles, of Pimlico, took part in a visitors-versus-students spelling bee in one class, while other teachers urged the students to ask questions of their elders to learn what life was like back in their day.
Some classes examined cultural differences between the generations — comparing the price of milk, the differences between computers and typewriters, and what each generation did for fun.
For older students, some of the special activities were more academic. Teacher Jon Tolerton put his fifth-grade students and their visitors to work with a series of math problems.
Bill Giuliani said the fifth-grade math class he sat in on with Matt Schawb was impressive in that the students learn conceptually — not by memory, as he did when he was in school. He said he was also impressed by the dynamism of the teachers.
For grandparents with multiple grandchildren or older grandchildren, Generations Day is a fixture in the calendar that allows a different view of how their children's children are developing.
Cleo Codella was visiting third-grader Casey Codella. She said she has other grandchildren at different schools, but she says none of them provide the opportunity to see her grandchildren's education up close in the way Generations Day does.
"I'm so happy they do this here," she said.