BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Students and faculty of Crim Primary School gathered June 7 for a lively celebration of the school’s 50th anniversary, highlighting music, dance and pop culture trends that have defined each of the last five decades.
The gymnasium buzzed with excitement as students and staff filtered in wearing red 50th anniversary t-shirts, and visitors were greeted by staff in bedazzled “50” glasses. The occasion also celebrated another special milestone, as principal Margaret Kerr is retiring at the end of this school year after 16 years as Crim’s principal.
Music teacher Heather Diaforli-Day prepared a selection of songs from each decade, often with surprise lyrics customized for the occasion. After “We All Celebrate” sung by everyone, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students took the stage singing “Baby Shark,” including a “Happy Birthday Crim” verse.
First graders commemorated the 2000s decade performing “My Own Two Hands,” accompanied by teacher Tate Hoffman on guitar. When second graders highlighted the 90s through the “Cha Cha Slide,” students cheered wildly to see Kerr and incoming principal Kelliann Tenkate take the stage together to join in the dance.
Hoffman and teacher Tara Hueston’s third grade class also sang the words to Bridgewater-Raritan School District’s mission statement adopted in 2017, set to music accompanied by Hoffman on guitar.
Students from each grade shared background information about each decade to introduce their performance.
Third graders reflected on the 80s when Crim students regularly carried Trapper Keepers and character lunchbox and thermos sets to school. Their performance of the Go Go’s “We Got the Beat” included sunglasses and “Crim’s Got the Beat” posters.
Fourth graders reflected on the 70s when students viewed film strips instead of smart boards in Crim classrooms, and looked for library books using the card catalog. Their performance of “Lean on Me” also celebrated Crim’s culture of friendship, as student singers leaned on each other, back-to-back and shoulder-to-shoulder.
During the encore of “What a Wonderful World,” performed by all grades, colorful banners were displayed one by one, corresponding to the lyrics until they formed a rainbow of “WE (heart) CRIM” on the stage.
Kerr continued the nostalgia, wearing her husband’s denim jacket from the 70s and her pocketbook from junior high school as she shared some Crim history.
The school’s 11-acre campus is part of what was once a 350-acre vacation estate formerly owned by U.S. Attorney General John W. H. Crim, for whom the street and school are now named, she explained.
“Many things have changed since 1968, but there is one thing that is still the same,” she said. “Crim School has been providing excellent and enriching programs all the years under five different principals, I’m the fifth and there’s soon to be a sixth new principal who will continue to do wonderful things for all of you."
Kerr encouraged guests to visit a museum set up in the school’s library, featuring a display of items and artifacts from each decade.
On behalf of the PTO, Kerr was presented with a plaque that will be permanently installed on the Crim playground. The inscription reads: “The 50th Golden Anniversary: This plaque is in honor of Margaret Kerr, Principal of Crim Elementary from August 2003 to July 2019, in recognition of her exceptional leadership and devotion, service to students and staff.”
Students watched a video showing how life and pop culture have changed throughout the decades. Students’ cheers grew audibly louder as the video progressed from Pong to X-box, and rotary phones to iPhones.
School spirit was also on display through a bulletin board spelling “CRIM” with a heart, made up of individual hearts bearing student’s inscriptions of what they love most about their school.
“Today we are grateful to celebrate the Crim community,” Kerr said. “We’re all proud of its lasting impact on our students. I still get letters from kids who attended Crim School many years ago, into college and beyond, and they all express gratitude for their experiences here.”