COLUMBIA — When asked, Malaki Spencer, 5, doesn't need even a second to think: When he grows up, he wants to be a basketball player and play for the Chicago Bulls, just like his all time favorite basketball player, Michael "Air" Jordan. A classic choice.
He also said that "the world is turning into dinosaurs," whatever that means.
Kaitlyn Gabrielson, 5, has less ambitious professional aspirations, seemingly conjured up on the spur of the moment. Standing on the sidewalk in front of Rock Bridge Elementary School, holding a sno-cone drizzled with grape, cherry and "mystery" flavored syrups, she considers the question for a moment, turns her head to the sno-cone truck and then responds.
"I might want to have an ice cream truck," she said. "Selling ice cream would be pretty easy."
Rock Bridge Elementary in south Columbia was one of seven kindergartens in the Columbia School District hosting open houses on Wednesday evening, giving kids and parents an opportunity to find classrooms and meet their teachers.
Principal Mary Korth-Lloyd said at least 84 kindergarteners were starting at Rock Bridge this fall, slightly more than last year, though she expected more would be added at the last minute during the usual post-Labor Day weekend increase.
Not all of the students were visiting the school for the first time. Many, like Kenzie Von Talge, 5, had attended summer school in preparation for the fall. Kenzie hopes to learn to read and write. She already carries a little notebook with her everywhere she goes, where she says she keeps her secrets.
Kenzie's father, Shaun Von Talge, was looking forward to his second daughter starting school but was less enthusiastic about the new 7:40 a.m. start time, which has shaved some of the precious few minutes needed to get his girls prepared during their weekday morning routine.
"It's tough getting a 6- or 7-year-old up and ready that early," Von Talge said.
Students and parents at Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School downtown have the luxury of 15 extra minutes in the morning.
Scott Matz's oldest child starts kindergarten at Lee this fall. Matz said he's had to keep a close eye on his adventerous son, Harrison, 5, for the past five years. Now he's a little worried the boy won't be getting enough supervision once he starts kindergarten next week a Lee Elementary School.
Harrison is just excited about recess. He already has his mind set on climbing all over the big red jungle gym that's shaped like a log cabin.
On the other side of Lee's playground, Robert Hightower was pleased that his youngest kid, Naomi, 5, was starting at the same kindergarten he attended and was hopeful his daughter would find the same connections with the school and its people that still resonate for him years later.
Sally Chevalier, 5, couldn't hold back her own feelings of joy upon meeting her new teacher.
"This is the funnest day of my life," she said.
Next to her birthday, of course, she added.
Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.