Given the fast-paced nature of most families’ lives, sometimes it can be difficult to find the time to come together and connect. As one of the most vital parts of the School’s vision and a critical aspect to St. Anne’s-Belfield School’s commitment to providing an environment where all members—students, teachers, staff members, parents, alumni, friends of the School—feel welcome, safe, valued and known. Through the FamilyFest and SummerFest programs, we’re providing such an opportunity.
Over the last year, hundreds of community members from the Pre-School and Lower School have come together for sit-down meals and group activities across various themed evenings. Gifts provided to the Fund for St. Anne’s-Belfield made the programming possible and supported materials, refreshments and promotion.
Assistant Head of the Learning Village for Student Life, Pre-School - Grade 4 Stacey Gearhart, the originator of both programs, said, “We wanted to provide an event where the children are the experts. It’s a chance for them to get their parents on the ground with them and teach them, instead of the other way around.”
Activities have included Namaste & Play, Let's Make a Mess, It's Slime Time, Tote-ally Awesome Designs, LEGO Night, Math Game Night (held on Pi Day), Nature Night, Makerspace Night, Family Night, PE Night, and Yoga Night. These unique theme nights have given families a chance to spend time with each other, but also to learn and share things about themselves. A large part of the programs’ appeal is getting to know other members of the community.
“A lot of families participate by sharing parts of their culture,” Gearhart said. “It’s truly rewarding for members of our community to come together and be comfortable with their differences.”
With the emergence of COVID-19 impacting the world, FamilyFest shifted to a virtual event this past spring, hosted on Facebook. As the event broadens its scope, there’s potential to expand the programs to include students from the Middle and Upper Schools. But the core ethos of the events will remain the same—building connections, growing stronger as a community, and bringing members together for time with family.
“We understand the routines that families have during the week, and we sought to build out the event with that in mind,” Gearhart said. “We don’t want to be a disruption, but rather, a scheduled time in your day for you to be with your children and the St. Anne’s-Belfield community.”