The Great Jell-O Caper (October 2011)
by Emily Jusuf and Emily Nishiwaki, age 8th grade, New York
"Hello? Are you paying attention or not? Do you want to make us fail the entire project?" This was the refrain that droned on for two months--straight through February until the end of March. None of us were having much fun, to put it mildly. It was a week before the deadline of the documentary, a huge project for the seventh-graders at my school. We all just wanted to pull out our brains and yell "PIE WAR!!" like Kokopelli, not caring about the consequences.
Our opportunity came when we realized that the last workday, the exact date the documentary was due, was April 1. A plan began to hatch in our minds on March 31. It was inspired by a story in the July/August 2009 issue of Muse, and would involve borrowing an object and encasing it in (yes, inside) a dome of pure Jell-O. We had three days to make this work.
The first step was to get an object belonging to the teachers. We made a great team: Samantha E. was talking to the teachers and asking them questions incessantly to keep their attention away from us. Suppressing our laughter, we entered their office, grabbed one of the teachers' coffee mugs (fittingly, it read "Edible Arrangements"), and then dashed outside. Emily J. looked awfully suspicious in the huge sweatshirt she'd worn to conceal the mug, but no one questioned us. Jordan S. fell down the stairs in her excitement, Emily J. stuffed the mug in her backpack, and everybody went back to work in silent glee.
That afternoon, we sent each other long chains of emails planning for the big prant--excuse me, pranks. An organized spreadsheet was created with columns for each prank, its target teacer, students involved, diversions, backup plans, what we would have to steal,* and emergency escape routes. We placed more care and organization into this than we ever had into any homework assignment, essay, test, or lab experiment.
With the help of her parents, Emily J. cooked up a batch of strawberry Jell-O and let it harden around the mug. At the same time, Alex S. had taken the teachers' stapler and was doing the same thing with the Jell-O at his home.
As you would expect, everybody was looking forward to Friday morning--April Fools' Day. But there was still a hint of doubt in our minds. Would the Jell-O recipe fail? Would someone drop the mug and break it? Would we be wasting precious documentary time with our petty pranks? And worst of all, would our teachers be angry with us?
Our excitement prevailed over our worries, though. On April 1, we arrived at school by 6:45 AM. Emily J. and Alex S. put the plates of Jell-O (with the stolen items inside them) on top of the teachers' desks. We put together some other small pranks, too, such as decorating the office of a Yankees-fan teacher with Boston Red Sox posters.
Right before the teachers arrived at 7:15, we all ran out of the classroom and went to hide in a separate part of the school building. Alex S., who was one of the last to leave, reported witnessing the teachers' reactions at seeing the Jell-O on their desks: They were "cracking up!" It made us feel better to know that our great teachers could see the humor in our pranks.
As the morning ticked slowly by, impatience and frustration threatened us, but we had to stay calm and organized. We lined up our backpacks on the side of the halls and tried not to make too much noise. At 7:40, several students went down to greet the school buses at they arrived. We led everyone up to the park of the school building where we were hiding from the teachers as part of the prank. We even took attendance to make sure everyone was present! It felt as if we were truly working as a team.
At 8:15, one of our teachers peered out of the window and stared across the street at us. Fear swept through us; they weren't supposed to know we were here! This was not going according to plan! Then the teacher yelled at us to come in. As some students tugged at the doors, we knew there was no going back now. The doors burst open as 22** boisterous seventh-graders ran through the street cheering. As the teachers greeted us inside, they were smiling.
Later that day, we celebrated the success of our April Fool's Day by eating the Jell-O we'd made. ("Edible Arrangements," indeed!) Without even bothering to take out the mug and stapler, we all dug in at the same time, using plastic utensils. Even though we had to return to documentary work within an hour, we continued to laugh about the whole thing.
Today, everyone agrees that the amazing prank was definitely worth the work. It brought out the best in all of us: our skills in organization, communication, and teamwork. And we are proud to say that on the last day of our seventh-grade school ear, our teachers announced us as "the most organized group of pranksters ever!"
*Don't worry--we washed and returned the mug! The stapler was damaged by the Jell-O, but Alex S. made sure to buy the teachers a new one.
**The other three students in the seventh grade had gone to homeroom on time to avoid suspicion, which was part of the plan. It didn't really work.