“Celebrations weave our hearts and souls into a shared destiny” (Bolman & Deal, 1995, p. 96). In some magical way, ceremonies and celebrations that are well carried out build meaning and significance into the life of a group, organization, or community (Williams, 2006, p. 124).
Both sixth grade sections (at Tempe Prep Junior Academy, where I teach) have spent the past month immersed in ancient Greece in their Social Studies, Language Arts and Drama classes. Today their mythology scrapbooks were due: a four-week project where each student had to research one specific character from Greek mythology, and following specific guidelines and criteria, create a "scrapbook" of information about him/her.
This was a big deal assignment.
This afternoon, the students exchanged scrapbooks with one another so that they could share what they had all accomplished. It was quiet in the room, as each student looked through the others' books. It was clear they were excited about sharing their work with their peers and seeing what everyone else had done.
Following the "viewings," each student then had to go through a check list and write a critique/reflection of his/her own work.
Tomorrow, we are having a celebration of our ancient Greek unit with "Greek Fest." For part of the morning, students will be presenting oral stories about the mythology character they studied. The students will also be split into four teams - the Giants, the Olympians, the Titans, and the Half-Bloods (the last team name is based on the modern-day Percy Jackson series, which we've been reading during homeroom) - to play Trivial Pursuit, the ancient Greek version, and for a 6th grade-twist on the Olympics. The students will also be performing "Three-actor plays," and feasting on Greek food for lunch.
Tomorrow will bring together pieces of what we have been exploring for the last 30 + days, in the spirit of play, in the guise of fun, and in an atmosphere of mirth. The students are really excited about the festivities, and after all the hard work they've put in (and they put in a lot of hard work), I have no doubt that some much needed merriment is in order!
Because the students have so much background information to bring with them tomorrow, Greek Fest - though light-hearted in spirit - will be packed with a great deal of significance and understanding. Like the Greeks, the sixth graders will have the opportunity to celebrate the "Good Life," - the balance of academics and play, of seriousness and silliness, and the beauty of participating as full-fledged citizens of TPJA's sixth grade class.
Williams, R. Bruce. (2006). 36 tools for building spirit in learning communities. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.