A loop of video showing the Blue Angels soaring through the heavens was projected on a screen above the stage in the gymnateriatorium at Maryland Avenue Montessori, a Milwaukee Public School on the East Side celebrating 125 years in its current building this year.
Despite their speed and acrobatics, they couldn't hold a flame – blue or otherwise – to the aircraft soaring around the school's combined gym, cafeteria and auditorium after school on Thursday.
The K3-8 school's new Fathers Involved group arrived on the scene with its first event, a paper airplane extravaganza called "Airplane Excitement."
The dad's group has only met twice so far – drawing about 15 fathers to the first gathering – but it was at that initial meeting that the idea for the event was launched.
"We were looking for something that would be different and fun for everyone," says Maryland Avenue principal Joe DiCarlo, who helped get the Fathers Involved group off the ground.
Make no mistake, the community at Maryland Avenue Montessori is an involved one. There is a fund that raises money and meets monthly – it was a key player in getting the school's new rain garden done this summer – a School Governance Council – and, of course, a PTO.
There are dads involved in all these groups and in other ways – including the dad writing this posting, who (full disclosure) is chair of the SGC – but DiCarlo saw room for more involvement, especially among dads. While a visit to a school PTO meeting, for example, finds a turnout many schools can only dream of, the Y chromosomes are sparse.
Hopefully, Fathers Involved will encourage more dads to join the PTO, which works hard raising money and offering time, energy and resources supporting a wide variety of school programs.
Airplane Excitement showed great promise, getting the dads off and running with a bang. While they expected perhaps 15 or 20 kids to attend the event, a rough count made at the start showed at least 80 on hand. And more kept coming.
But the dads were prepared, having brought enough paper and other materials to supply every kid with multiple planes and still pack up leftover supplies at the end.
At four tables, fathers – and moms! – helped kids build planes in all different kinds of styles. Some kids totally free-styled it with some great results and sometimes not so great ones. But in the latter cases they often did some troubleshooting to make improvements.
Then they tried their planes out in the distance area, seeing how far they could fly and how making alterations affected the results. In another area, kids aimed their pulpy jets at hula hoop targets to test for accuracy.
During a halftime break, some kids showed off their work, explaining how they constructed their planes and offering test flights.
Some kids learned, hands-on, about aerodynamics, some just blew off some energy and others bonded with friends and parents. But everyone clearly had a blast.
I can't wait to see Fathers Involved focus some of their energy into joining forces with the school's other established support groups, to take their involvement to the next level, and I'm eager to see what Fathers Involved comes up with for its next event.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.