Nothing like going back to the old school to drop eggs from the third floor

       In the spring of 1982, Buena Vista Elementary teacher Karen Heidenreich introduced an end-of-the-year student activity for her sixth-graders. Looking back on the occasion this week, she said the idea must have come from something she'd heard about. All she recalls for sure is, “I thought it would be a fun activity, and I had a room on the top floor.”

Buena Vista Elementary students watch while Dalila Walker's egg, attached to a parachute, floats down from the third-story window during the school's 30th annual fifth-grade Egg Drop. Now the Westside Community Center, the site housed BV from 1911 to 2009. Also looking out the window is teacher Susan Garsoe.
Westside Pioneer photo

       In any case, 1982 was the first year for BV's Egg Drop - a tradition that has continued annually ever since. The basic rules haven't changed much since Heidenreich's premiere event:
  • The eggs have to be fresh (not hard-boiled).
  • They must be dropped from a third-floor window.
  • To protect their egg from breaking, a student can pack it in almost anything.
  • The rest of the school gets to watch.
           The Egg Drop has survived despite teacher turnover. Heidenrich left BV in 1999, passing the event to another teacher, Marilyn George, who later passed it to Susan Garsoe, who plans to pass it yet again when she retires after the 2011-12 school year.
           It also survived the school district's format change in the '90s, when sixth grade became part of middle school (thus relegating the Egg Drop responsibility to fifth-graders).
           And, perhaps most impressive of all, the Egg Drop has carried on despite Buena Vista being in another location - the former Washington Elementary building - since fall 2009. So, for Buena Vista to continue the tradition, its students now have to trek eight blocks over to their old school.
           It was also necessary to get permission from the old school's new occupants, the Westside Community Center. Happily, Dick Siever, its executive director, said he thought the event was great and was glad to help.
           So it was that, for the 30th annual egg drop May 17, when the BV kids started arriving, center staff had already opened the door to the middle building stairway and removed the screen from the third-floor window. In return, the school volunteered to clean up any spills.
           One by one, the students took their turn, leaning out the window (with Garsoe, next to them, making sure they didn't lean TOO far). Out of 22 eggs that were let go, only 4 broke. “That was our best percentage ever,” Garsoe laughed, but then added, “If some didn't break, what fun would it be?”
           The successes should not be perceived as luck. After all, as Garsoe, George and Heidenreich noted in interviews this week, the Egg Drop ritual has become so ingrained that students have been known to plan egg-preservation strategies throughout their elementary school careers.
           Samples of material that have been used to break (or slow) the fall are styrofoam, boxes, balloons, nerf balls, parachutes, PVC piping and - this year - a sleeping bag. “You name it, it was used,” Heidenrich said.
           Garsoe believes the event is at least partially educational. “I tell them to think about how to pack it or lighten it as it gains momentum,” she said. “But I don't want to give too much instruction. They're highly motivated to keep the egg intact. Instead of thinking about the right way to do it, I'd rather have them delighted with what they've made.”
           Part of the tradition involves the audience of underclassmen, who sit on the pavement below the window. The way it's supposed to go, each fifth-grader holds his/her protected egg out the window, waiting for the students below to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the likelihood of it staying unbroken. But somehow this year's crowd got into a “scrambled eggs” chant, no matter what was being held out the window.
           All an observer could think is that those younger kids ought to have paid closer attention to what their elders made. Because their turn is coming one of these years, and the yolk might be on them.

    Westside Pioneer article