President Michael E. Hill receives guidance from Children’s School

The 5s from the Yellow and Blue rooms at Children’s School present President Michael E. Hill with suggestions on how to improve Chautauqua at the President’s Cottage on Friday July 28, 2017. CAM BUKER / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The future of Chautauqua Institution doesn’t just have a voice — it has some ideas.

Last Friday, those ideas were brought to the steps of President Michael E. Hill’s house as 5s from Children’s School visited Hill’s cottage and presented him with a letter that detailed what they love about Chautauqua, as well as their suggestions for how to make it even better.

“So often, we spend time with adults here,” Hill said, “so I think it’s cool to have the youngest Chautauquans talk a little bit about why this place matters and what they hope to see.”

On July 26, the 5s spent time talking with members of the Chautauqua administration. The kids were able to ask questions, both personal and professional, about what different people do in their roles at Chautauqua.

Associate Director of Education and Youth Services Matt Ewalt, Vice President and Director of Programming Deborah Sunya Moore, Vice President of Marketing and Communications/Chief Brand Officer Emily F. Morris, Director of Operations John Shedd, and board of trustees Chair James A. Pardo Jr. all visited Children’s School and, along with Children’s School Director Kit Trapasso, fielded questions from the kids.

The kids fired off questions that ranged from the mundane (“What do you do at your job?”) to the vital (“What’s your favorite mythical monster?”).

Following the Q-and-A sessions, each guest received a personal tour of the Children’s School classrooms and surrounding grounds.

From their time with these Chautauqua professionals, the kids not only learned more about Chautauqua but were also able to start formulating their own ideas for Hill. These ideas, Hill said, are critical to Chautauqua’s future.

“If what we’re talking about is curating the best conversations about what’s happening in society, that’s got to include all of society, which includes age diversity,” Hill said.

After being welcomed to his home, the kids presented their letter to Hill. Then, to ensure he read each and every word, they sat on his steps and waited. And read every word he did.

Dear President Hill,

Children’s School is happy to welcome you as our new President of Chautauqua. We, the 5-year-olds of the Blue and Yellow rooms would like to share a little bit about what we think is special about Chautauqua and suggestions for its future.

We love Chautauqua. A few of the things we love about Chautauqua are:

– ice cream

– spending time with our families

– seeing our friends all over the grounds

– all the awesome secret hideouts

– playing under Thunder Bridge

– the beautiful music

– meeting all the people who help run Chautauqua

– swimming in the lake

– playgrounds

– Children’s School

The theme of Children’s School this week was Kids’ Government. We thought about how things would be if we were in change and what we would do to help make our wonderful home even better.

– let’s make the Bell Tower higher

– Thunder Bridge could use more thunder

– add a tire swing, monkey bars that go in a square, and a kids’ zipline to the Children’s School playground

– we should probably elect a kid president to help out

– no more litter: we can help clean it up and people who litter could go to jail for a week

– more gardens and milkweed for the butterflies

– Children’s Beach could be bigger: more sand!

– we need more bats so we can see them at night with the fireflies

– build fairy houses everywhere

– create a zoo for mythical monsters

– kid-affordable ice cream

We may be small, but we are mighty and happy to help.

Please don’t hesitate to call on us whenever you need an extra (small) pair of hands. As the future of Chautauqua, we want to make our community as fantastic as possible.

We’re coming back next year … YOU BET!

Hill, more than eager to read the letter, said he understands how important opportunities like this are for the kids themselves.

“For any young person, the value of being heard is a big deal,” he said. “I hope they feel like coming here, symbolically, they’ve (had the opportunity) to be listened to.”

And just in case there were any concerns about how many kinds of mythical monsters should be in the zoo, Yellow Room’s Oliver Zachry had it all taken care of.

“It’ll be for all of them,” Oliver told Hill. “Even dragons and giants and all the scaries.”   

Tags : administrationchautauqua institutionChildren's Schoolmichael e. hill

The author Nathan Healy

Nathan Healy is a second-year graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He is pursuing his M.A. in professional writing. Following his undergraduate studies, he spent eight-plus years teaching at an all-boys private school for court-adjudicated youth. In addition to writing and reading, Nathan enjoys traveling, eating at new restaurants, spending time with his niece and nephews, and being physically active.