A pretty piano melody, played by LS music teacher Julia Beckmann, floated into the McAneny Theater lobby as the entire Lower School quietly arrived for their first assembly of the year. The ringing of the Tibetan bowl brought the room to complete stillness.
Head of Lower School Sandy Wang welcomed the PreK through Fourth Grades, noting that this year, LS assemblies will be held every Day 7 of the school cycle schedule in McAneny at 8:30am. Announcing that there would be a theme for the year in the Lower School that relates to the message of the picture book Zoom, Ms. Wang created a silent reading experience for everyone by showing Zoom page by page on the stage's large projection screen. The illustrations took viewers from a close-up view of the world immediately around them to a continually larger perspective of their community, region and position on Earth, ending with the planet and its solar system as the tiniest speck in the universe.
"Do you have an idea from this book about what this year's theme might be?" Ms. Wang asked the students.
Here are some of the thoughts the children offered:
"It kept getting bigger and bigger."
"If it hadn't stopped it would have gone forever..."
"I think the theme is the world."
"No matter how small you are you make an impact."
"I think the theme is you are a small part of the world."
"It's about building a community step by step."
Ms. Wang asked with a warm smile, "Are you in high school? These were some great thoughts that relate to this year's theme. What do you notice about where you came from, where you are today and its relationship to this book? Let's start with where you came from today. What is your community at home? "
"Your family," came the ready answer.
"When you come here and walk through the doors at PDS, what is your community? Is it bigger than your family?"
"Yes, it's our peers and classrooms, the whole Lower School community," several students quickly replied.
"And is the Lower School a part of something bigger?" It's part of Princeton Day Schoo! And the Princeton Day School community is part of what bigger community? Princeton! And is Princeton part of something bigger? New Jersey! (The whole theater was enthusiastically participating at this point.) And what is New Jersey part of? The USA! And what continent? North America!! "And it's part of the Earth, which is one small part of the universe," Ms. Wang observed, bringing the learning experience full circle.
"What we're going to be thinking about this year is how we are just a small part of the world that we live in. 'Bigger than me' is our theme for the year," she continued. "There are so many things that are bigger than us that we can have an impact on and that we can help make better. You've been learning a song this year with Miss Beckmann about this."
Miss Beckmann then asked the whole theater to stand together and led them in singing "I am a small part of the world." It was a heartfelt performance and well done after only two classes of learning the song!
The assembly concluded with thank you's to everyone who contributed to the assembly, including faculty who came up with the resources to demonstrate the theme and the 4P ushers who helped lead all of the LS students into the theater. Dismissed with a final ring of the Tibetan bowl, the orderly procession of PreK through Grade Four impressively demonstrated their community understanding of their role in creating a respectful environment for the assembly experience.
Above: Scenes from the school year's first Lower School assembly led by Sandy Wang. Below, a portion of the song, "I am a small part of the world," sung by all of the students and conducted by Julia Beckmann.