Bite-Size Activities Liven Up Lunchtime

Joanne Jiminez of Hamptons Pony Parties and Jiminez Jumpers brought Annie the pony
Joanne Jiminez of Hamptons Pony Parties and Jiminez Jumpers brought Annie the pony to meet first graders at the John M. Marshall Elementary School during a lunchtime Brown Bag enrichment event on Friday. Durell Godfrey

On Friday, approximately 20 first graders at the John M. Marshall Elementary School bundled up and filed outside during their lunch break, packed lunches in hand, to greet Annie, the pony. 

While the children munched on their food, Joanna Jimenez, a parent of two girls at the school, spoke to them about her life as an owner of Jimenez Jumpers, the stable she runs with her husband in Bridgehampton. Annie stood patiently by her side, and even more patiently when the kids took turns petting her.

The event, which was optional, was part of the school’s Brown Bag enrichment series, designed, according to Beth Doyle, the principal, to offer kids an alternative to the 40-minute lunch and recess period, which in the winter months often means sitting in classrooms for more sedentary free-time activities.

“It’s been really successful so far,” said Ms. Doyle, explaining that they limit each guest speaker’s audience to 25 kids from a specific grade. So far, they have had visits from an owner of a virtual reality school, who spoke to fifth graders, and a yoga practitioner, who discussed breathing techniques utilized by stage performers and public speakers.

At the end of each presentation, the children are asked to fill out a survey, which Ms. Doyle said has resulted in positive feedback.

The idea of offering students bite-sized enrichment options during lunchtime occurred to Ms. Doyle and Russell Morgan, the assistant principal, when they participated in a shadow day last year, following students from morning through the afternoon to get firsthand knowledge of how they really spend their time and to identify areas that need improvement.

“One of the things we found,” said Ms. Doyle, “was that kids were spending way too much time just sitting in classrooms, especially in the winter.” She learned about a similar Brown Bag enrichment program at another Long Island school, and decided to implement a variation in East Hampton.

Currently, the school brings in guest speakers on intermittent Fridays, but the hope is that it will catch on and more parents will offer to come and speak with the children.

“It’s just a nice way to use that time in the school day for something fun and to bring the community into the school,” said the principal.

On Friday, one student received a surprise bonus: Ben Krupinski, the owner of the Krupinksi building company in East Hampton, donated a scholarship to Ms. Jimenez’s summer riding camp, valued at $500.