Partnership with North Park Elementary School

by Jennifer Casey, Outreach Committee Co-Chair – GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago

We are grateful to Cassidy and Sam, wonderful moms from North Park Elementary School, who reached out this fall as they considered local community learning opportunities for their children’s 1st grade class. When we met shortly after, we felt an immediate connection to them and their goal of widening the lens of these students’ experiences by introducing them to Down syndrome and the mission of our Playhouse. 

We had the great pleasure to meet this 1st grade class and their amazing teacher Ms. Lawrence in late-November when we hosted a presentation in their classroom.  A big shout out to Maria Pradd, mom of a Playhouse participant and former Playhouse President, and our Site Coordinator, Grace Glenny, for thoughtfully and inspiringly educating the students on Down syndrome and the purposeful work of our Playhouse. The students’ level of attention and interest in learning and the quality and quantity of their questions were enlightening and absolutely made our day.    

This past Tuesday, Ms. Lawrence and her class took a field trip to the Playhouse, not only to experience our space, but to learn more about Down syndrome and what we do. Thank you to Grace, Jennifer Puma, our Program Coordinator, Anna and Allie, our RUSH OT Capstone students and our Playhouse Adult Interns, Lucy, Ryan, Emily and Leslie for creating and leading a magical experience for the class. Following all-around introductions to help break the ice, Lucy shook off her nerves and led the Interns in giving a tour of the Playhouse, sharing how each area of the Playhouse is typically used. Lucy and Grace then took to the stage and read “We’ll Paint the Octopus Red to the class”, a wonderful children’s book about a young girl whose new brother with Down syndrome is about to be born. Ryan then allowed us to get up and move our bodies by hosting a yoga session, which was a smash hit! We completed the student’s time at the Playhouse with a coloring page and all of us taking the Generation G pledge to be accepting, generous and kind, each and every day.  

Having the opportunity and truly wonderful experience of expanding our world with this new neighborhood collaboration with North Park Elementary has been amazing! Building knowledge and empathy for those with different life circumstances, especially with young people, brings us all that much closer to our mission of creating a world that sees Down syndrome differently. Thank you North Park Elementary, we look forward to more fun times together to come!    

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