Lemon face challenge: Barlow fourth graders bite in for ‘DIPG warrior’

Fourth graders at Barlow Mountain Elementary School tried to turn lemons into lemonade last Thursday — with mixed results.

“My name is Brooke Blake, I am a DIPG warrior,” said Brooke Blake, introducing herself to her classmates before telling them why they were all huddled in the school’s cafeteria.

“We will be doing the lemon face challenge, where we stick a lemon in our mouth to see our reaction,” explained Brooke, who was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), in December 2015.  

The fourth graders all bit into a raw lemon wedge in unison to show off their sourest face. Some grimaced and winced. A few seemed pleasantly surprised, proudly announcing the lemon wedges were tastier than expected.

The lemon face challenge, like the ice bucket challenge that preceded it, had a purpose beyond just amusing passersby, however — it was meant to raise awareness for DIPG.

“I didn’t make a face because these lemons aren’t sour when they’re just picked,” Brooke explained to The Press.

“There you go, you made lemonade out of those lemons,” Barlow Mountain Principal Rebecca Pembrook told Brooke.

She and her classmates followed up the lemon challenge with a song about resilience — On Top of the World, by the American rock band Imagine Dragons.

“It felt good having all those people sing songs,” Brooke said.


Pembrook explained that the challenge was part of the class’s Bobcat Highlights — named for the school’s feline masot. The event is an exhibition that lets the kids pick songs to perform about what they’ve been studying during the year. This time around, the kids chose a series of songs about math.

There were some jokes thrown in for good measure as well.

“Where do you go to get warmer?” asked one student.

Answer: The corner of 90 degrees.

“They usually close with the school song, but this year the fourth grade team came to me with this great challenge,” Pembrook said about the lemon face challenge.

She explained that the challenge was meant to raise awareness of the illness, not funds.

Brooke’s peers and teachers have been supportive, the principal said.

“She’s OK,” Pembrook said about Brooke. “I think she described herself as a DIPG warrior, and that’s the best way to describe it.”

She added that the school is “letting families lead the way” with explaining Brooke’s illness to her fellow classmates. “We have to protect confidentiality,” she said.

“I think this was a fantastic and developmentally appropriate way to approach this — to celebrate her warrior spirit.”