If there’s one thing that will unite all age groups, it’s cookies.
Portage High School students and preschoolers from The Little School seemed equally enthused about the holiday treats Wednesday — the 17th year the schools decorated cookies before Christmas.
“I’m pretty sure everyone likes cookies,” junior Max Monfort said. In Jane Hemming’s Baking and Pastries classroom, Monfort is one of several students who had participated in the activity as a preschooler.
“It sets the bar for who you want to be when you grow up,” he said, remembering his experience.
“When you’re little, the only thing you want to become is older,” explained sophomore Katleyn Belleau, another former student of the preschool. Belleau and her 25 peers on Wednesday worked alongside 18 Little School students in the classroom kitchen — making the cookies, frosting them and topping them with rainbow sprinkles and sugar crystals.
Her favorite part of the day’s activity was seeing the preschool students overcome their shyness. “It’s fun to help them — but it’s especially fun to watch them do this,” Belleau said. “You get to see their different personalities come out.”
Little School student Ellie Zacek enjoyed the field trip “because we baked cookies.” A snowman-shaped cookie was Lucy Johnson’s favorite “because it just is.”
“My favorite holiday is Christmas,” Zacek added. “And Halloween.”
Little School teacher Tana Olsen typically won’t tell her students about the activity until two days beforehand, she said, since the excitement for the activity gets so high. Earlier that day, Little School teachers overheard one student comment, “These kids are 800 pounds.”
“For some of them, it’s their first time in the high school,” Olsen said. “They come in here pretty quiet, but they leave with lots of confidence. They make new friends, saying goodbye and hugging them.”
Hemming has been part of the activity from its beginning — the first when her daughter, Addison, went to Little School. Addison is now in college, studying to be a teacher, she said.
“It’s a circle,” said Olsen, whose grandson, Landon Ostrowski, is a Little School student this year. Many parents of current Little School students went to the school — established in Portage about 30 years ago — when they were kids, Olsen noted.
For the big kids, the activity is about “doing something for someone else,” Hemming said. “It brings them back to when they were young — the fascination of being little.” For the little kids, “It brings out a whole new side of them.”
“It’s fun to see them get creative,” Monfort said.
Belleau said, “It seems like they’ll always look up to you.”
“Sprinkles,” Olsen said. “It works every time.”