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November 17, 2020

By Julia Sonenshein, Assistant Director of Communications, Marketing

“How do ghosts wash their hair?” Sebastian V. ’28 asks.

“I don’t know,” Zoe D. ’28 responds. “How do they wash their hair?” 

Sebastian winds up for the punchline: “With Sham-boo!”

The faces arrayed on the Google Meet grid break into smiles — and though everyone’s muted, the 5th Grade planners of the Fieldston Lower Carnival have thought of everything when taking the event virtual: A Fieldston Lower parent has been deputized to run a laugh track.

Sebastian tees up another joke. It’s Halloween, so he’s slinging a spooky routine: “What do you call a witch that goes to the beach?”

“I don’t know,” Ben P. ’28 says. “What do you call a witch that goes to the beach?”

“A sandwich!” The laugh track kicks in, and the faces of the Fieldston Lower community join in from their homes.

Sebastian, Zoe, and Ben have been tasked with the welcome to the day’s event, and their job is to get the audience warmed up before the planned activities begin. The kids take the audience through some energetic movement exercises (“Wave your hands and turn around in a circle!”; “Stir a big witch’s pot in front of you!”; “Show us some leaves falling with your hands!”), and lead a raucous, unmuted costume roll call. (“If you’re wearing an animal costume, say MOO!”; “For all of those superheroes, let’s hear a KAPOW!”; “If you’re wearing Fieldston colors, say GO EAGLES!”) Attendees shout out their answers, reveling in getting loud together. 

Historically, the Fieldston Lower Carnival, led by 5th Grade students, is a complement to Homecoming. The all-day event takes place on the Lower Field, decked out with a bounce house, a face-painting station, a pumpkin-painting booth, a photo booth, and plenty more activities. It’s a way for Fieldston Lower students — who might not have the ability to sit through, say, an entire football game — to show their school spirit and ECFS pride.  

Given the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, the carnival couldn’t take place on campus, and so the students — with help from the P+T and the Fieldston Lower faculty and staff — took the event online.

“It’s a seminal event for our 5th Graders,” the Fieldston Lower parent of laugh track fame says. “They get to show school spirit and school leadership.” As such, the 5th Graders took the lead in planning, developing a schedule of seven 15–20 minute sessions and assigning student facilitators for each event.

“The kids really took ownership of their sessions and made it their own,” the Fieldston Lower parent says. 

The carnival typically serves as the culmination of Spirit Week at Fieldston Lower, and this year, Assistant Principal for Student Life Naomi Randolph spearheaded the week for students both on campus and off. She came up with themes for each day of the week: Pajama Day, Jersey Day, Silly Hat/Hair Day, Rainbow Day, and School Pride Day. Students and faculty dressed up to match the theme, and the 5th Graders — who were learning remotely during Spirit Week — checked in on the costumes from home.

The School also handed out carnival kits to the student body in preparation for Spirit Week. Each kit contained an orange t-shirt emblazoned with “FIELDSTON LOWER,” materials to make masks, face crayons for face-painting, and more. The orange shirts came in handy during Spirit Week on School Pride Day, and the Fieldston Lower community put the full kits to use during the day of the carnival.

For the Scavenger Hunt, Zoe, Olivia S. ’28, Phoebe H. ’28, and Warren S. ’28 led the crowd through a series of clues, like “I have teeth but I don’t bite. I can make a part but not a whole. My companion is a brush. What am I?” Participants had two minutes to run and find a comb before they rushed back to the camera to show it off.

Next came the mask decoration workshop, led by Camila N. ’28, Lila N. ’28, Madelyn A. ’28, Javin G. ’28, and Jared S. ’28. Participants spent the session hyper-focused on their masks, using the provided fabric markers to create anything from puppies to superheroes.

The group moved onto face painting, led by Gabi A. ’28 and Ava C. ’28. The 5th Graders provided a slideshow of ideas and leaned into their performance. “They were so poised and had full control of their audience,” the Fieldston Lower parent says.

The Amazing 5th Grade Magic Show came next, with magicians Walker I. ’28, Lucas K. ’28, Sol N. ’28, and Mason W. ’28 taking center stage under the name “Three Magicians and a Business Guy.” Lucas disappeared a coin, Walker made coins shoot out of container, Sol cracked the crowd up with a fake floating ball (he held the ball and claimed it was floating — when it obviously wasn’t), and Mason performed an intricate card trick involving a ghost, mummy, vampire, alien, and werewolf. “They did an amazing job, and they worked so hard,” the Fieldston Lower parent says. 

Zoe, Ava, Gabi, Sebastian V. ’28, and Aaryan K ’28 took the lead in the penultimate event: Freeze Dance. “Everybody loves a good freeze dance,” the Fieldston Lower parent says, and it was a crowd favorite. The students played songs and the FL community stood up and danced, striking frozen poses when the music stopped. 

The day closed with a special guest: Principal Joe McCauley took to the screen to read Those Darn Squirrels. McCauley was his usual engaging self, keeping the audience rapt throughout the reading. 

“I was in awe at how well the 5th Graders ran the event and were able to keep all the younger students excited and focused,” McCauley says. “Just a year ago, I never would have thought an event like this would have been possible. It exceeded all of my expectations!”

Planning the carnival is a long-awaited milestone for Fieldston Lower 5th Graders, and it was critical that the students were able to mark the moment. Faculty, staff, students, and parents and guardians adapted to make the carnival a striking success.