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Creating their own Christmas story

Pine Island fifth-graders write scripts, pick songs and practice for holiday community event


What is there to do when Santa loses his memory the night before Christmas? Fifth-graders at Pine Island Elementary saved Christmas with the help of some musical birds, singing mice and enthusiastic snowmen, in their musical, “How the Penguins Saved Christmas.”

What’s your favorite thing about Christmas?

McKayla Brown: “Being with my family is the best part of Christmas. I don’t get to see them as often as I would like so it’s really great.”

Aden Cole: “Getting to sleep in and see family and open presents with everyone around.”

Collin Lehan: “All of the kids my age have a sleepover in my sister’s room the night before Christmas and it’s such a fun and exciting holiday for all of us.”

While it was a lesson in music and acting, it was also a lesson in writing and planning for the young thespians and scriptwriters.The annual Christmas play, directed by music teacher Amanda Hite, gives students the opportunity to write their own lines by incorporating language that represents things students enjoy, like video games and popular dances. Students also picked out songs, and parents got involved as well.

“It really is a community event,” Hite said. “Parents help by sewing costumes and the kids make a lot of the decisions for the musical.”

The musical also included Spanish-speaking roles and a song about Hanukkah.

Students auditioned for roles and practiced in class and at home to prepare for the big show. Larger parts included learning choreography, lines and developing character personalities.

Meeting the actors

McKayla Brown, 10, who played the Grinch, said it took 45 minutes to get into costume and makeup for the show.

“My family did my makeup and it took a really long time because, well, I had to be green,” she said. “It was a lot more work for that part than I thought it would be.”

McKayla Brown played the role of the Grinch in ‘How the Penguins Saved Christmas’

For McKayla, acting comes easy.

“I like to think I’m a pretty good actor, so it was a lot of fun for me to get to be the Grinch,” she said. “I want to be an actress and be in plays and movies so this was really fun for me.”

Though memorizing lines was tricky, working with her classmates helped the whole process run smoothly, she said. “We had to work together but it was really fun because it was a lot of people I haven’t worked with before,” McKayla said. “It’s always fun to see students from other classes that you don’t see as often.”

Aden Cole, 10, who played Santa, knew that was the role he wanted as soon as he found out about the musical. “Santa just felt like a good character for me,” he said. “Plus, the whole play is about Santa forgetting his memory, so if I forgot a line, I could just look confused.”

Aden also thought a song about spreading goodwill to the world was important.  “Every Christmas movie I watch has a song about spreading goodwill around the holidays so I think it was important that we had that song too,” he said. “It’s always good for that reminder.”

Collin Lehan, 10, auditioned for the role of Frosty because he wanted a “medium part,” nothing too big, nothing too small.  “I always liked Frosty. He’s so cool,” Collin said. “Plus, one of my favorite parts about snow is that I like to build snowmen and do a bunch of stuff like that in the winter, so it worked out well.”

Aden Cole played the role of Santa

As far as Collin’s Frosty costume went, it took two tries to get it right.

“My mom made my costume and the first one she made could have fit my dad,” he said. “We shrunk it down and it all worked out in the end but it had me a little worried for a second.”

Remembering choreography was the hardest part for Collin, so he practiced in the mirror for 30 minutes every day.  “The whole thing was a blast for me, even the hard parts,” Collin said. “I’ve never really done anything like this before, but I definitely plan on doing it again.”

All actors agreed it took a lot more work than expected to finish the musical.

“This took us the whole semester for sure,” McKayla said. “We were really happy with the way it turned out.”

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Take a bow, grasshoppers

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Hannah Lentz
Hannah Lentz
A 2017 graduate of Grand Valley State University and a lifelong teacher’s kid, Hannah Lentz has worked as a journalist in and outside the Grand Rapids area for more than five years. After serving as editor-in-chief at the GVSU student newspaper, Hannah interned at the Leelanau Enterprise where she learned a lot about community journalism. In addition to her work for School News Network, Hannah has worked as a freelance blogger in the furniture industry, focusing on design trends, and as a social media manager for World Medical Relief in Detroit.

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