Usually it’s the kids, not the grownups, clowning around in elementary school cafeterias.
But on April 2, parents, aunts and grandmothers at PS 340, in North Fordham, turned the tables, putting on a loud, colorful clown show for more than 100 squirming students.
For an hour, the adults, dressed in colorful outfits, their faces painted into smiles, provided a fun-filled showcase complete with ribbon twirling, spinning plates on sticks, hula hooping, and even a couple of comedy skits.
Nuris Crespo, grandmother to Grerly Martinez, a 7-year-old second grader, was all smiles as she described the program as “fabulous” and “fantastic.” Even though she was sick the night before, Crespo was determined to perform in the show. “I would like to see more projects in the future for parents,” she said.
At PS 340, the arts take center stage. Each grade focuses on a different artistic medium. Every year, third graders work with teaching artists from Marquis Studios, a Brooklyn organization, to learn the art of clowning.
This year, parents got into the act, thanks to Parents as Arts Partners grant from The Center for Arts Education. Starting in February, parents (and aunts and grandmothers like Crespo) spent five sessions training with Daniel Evans, 34, (also known as “Dandy Dan”), a professional clown from Marquis Studios.
Training parents to be clowns was different than training children, Evans said. He worked hard with parents “to let their guards down and show their fun side,” he said. “And to just be silly.”
Frances Flores, 32, kept her training a secret from her 8-year-old daughter, Jada Vazquez, a third grader, because she wanted to surprise her. Flores described each training session as “a little getaway” where she could interact with other parents and escape for a few hours. “I think [the program] is wonderful,” she said. “All schools should do something like this.”
Carmina Rodriguez, 47, joined the program to set a positive example for her grandson, Jayden Rodriguez, 5, a kindergartener. “If parents get involved, children will think [school] is important,” she said. “It sends out a message.”
It also helps parents come together. “Besides having a lot of fun, they have bonded quite a bit,” said Maria Acosta, the parent coordinator at PS 340. “That helps [the school] because it keeps parents well informed. We try to make it a family environment for parents.”
Aside from getting to know other parents, the program enables parents to play a key role in future school funding efforts. “It’s important [to participate] because I didn’t know that the school gets grants,” said Josefina Lopez, mother to Chris Bravo, a third grader. “But if you don’t participate, they don’t get grants.”
Plus, who doesn’t want to see their mom acting like a clown?