Photo of Sandy Drancsak, gym teacher, teaching about dreams to State Street School kids
Written by Lori Ruhlman
Lessons inspired by Lynne Cox, Students learn to catch dreams
In addition to running and jumping during physical education classes at State Street School this fall, students are dreaming. Yes, dreaming.
Physical Education teacher Sandy Drancsak is challenging students to dream about their futures, put those dreams in writing, and outline actual steps they can take to achieve their dreams.
Students’ dreams are appearing on clouds drawn on sheets of paper that line the hallways at the elementary school. “We want you to be dream catchers,” Drancsak told fourth graders during a recent class, as they sat around her on the gym floor. She challenged students to start by coming up with a big dream. Next, she explained how people achieve dreams or wishes by setting goals. “How do we catch dreams? By taking baby steps,” she said, explaining that those are called short term goals. For example, she said, a dream might be to someday be an actress or actor. There are many actions one could take to work toward that dream, including: “practice acting, join a drama club, watch a play, be in the Fifth Grade Musical, make your own video,” she explained.
Drancsak told students she is very excited about the upcoming visit of Lynne Cox, a record-breaking long distance swimmer and author. “She is the one who thinks it is important for kids to learn about dreams and goals,” Drancsak said. Lynne Cox set huge goals for herself – things that no one on earth had ever accomplished – and she managed to succeed. When she swam in freezing water or in shark-infested waters, she found ways to keep herself going, Drancsak said.
Cox also knew how to ask for help from other people, who then helped her achieve her dreams, Drancsak said. Cox will be in Skaneateles the week of October 7, with a community-wide speech at 7 p.m. Thursday, October 11. Drancsak told students that by displaying their dreams and their short term goals for all to see, they may find people who are willing to help out. She talked about a boy whose dream is to have his own chicken farm. Community members might see his dream and offer to help. “Someone might recommend a book about raising chickens,” she said. Someone might offer to have him help out on their farm, or may offer him supplies they no longer use.“My big thing is to teach goal setting,” Drancsak said about her lessons. “It’s important to let kids know the difference between dreaming, or wishing, and goal-setting.” She said she is teaching a method called…SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. “I am also teaching them how to overcome obstacles,” she said.
She encouraged students to sign up to join the Midnight Swim event that will be held at the YMCA in conjunction with the visit of Lynne Cox. It is from 9 p.m. to midnight on Sunday, October 7. (Elementary students swim from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.). The children’s dream posters will be displayed at the Midnight Swim, and people in the community will have the opportunity to post notes of encouragement on the posters – or to offer assistance.
The swim, a celebration of the author’s visit, will include games and relays. A party, complete with music and food, will take place in the lobby. In addition, the YMCA will display the photos and stories of local people who have worked hard, reached high and achieved their dreams. The achievements of local heroes – from high school athletes to famous alumni to entrepreneurs and doctors – will be used to inspire young people to reach for their dreams.
Drancsak, who is part of the committee that has worked to bring Cox to Skaneateles, said community support has been wonderful. YMCA Branch Director Dorothea Hughes and Aquatic Director Beth O’Sullivan jumped in completely to make the Midnight Swim a success, she said. In addition, she said, all of the teachers at State Street School have taught the 4th and 5th graders how to set goals, “so my intent to teach goal setting was made much easier than I thought it would be! I love our school staff. We all work together to raise our children.”
Many thanks to a long list of organizations and donors that have made this possible including: Skaneateles Education Foundation and the district PTCs, the Rotary, the YMCA, Endurance Monster, Creekside Books, SkanRaces, AAUW, and AXA Advisors, Dr. Rob Kiltz & CNY Fertility Center.