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Kindergarten Feature: Celebrations

At the beginning of each school year, the class gathers in the class meeting area to hear a read aloud of the book I’m in Charge of Celebrations by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall.

As the tale unfolds, students learn about the main character, a young person who lives in the desert. They encounter many breathtaking and unforgettable moments, mostly in nature, from an encounter with a coyote to a night full of endless falling stars. This book plants the seeds of inspiration in the students’ minds and, after the final page is read, we discuss, “What kind of celebration would you invent? How would we celebrate it at school?”

The students are given paper and pencils and are encouraged to sit and think, talk, draw and write about some of their most memorable experiences and/or one of their deepest loves. One student recalled a sighting of a family of racoons congregating around the trash cans outside the student’s home and “Three Raccoon Day” was born. One student who wears at least one rabbit on their clothing every single day was the mind behind “Bunny Day.” Students describe the reasoning behind their chosen celebration and give it a fitting name. For example, the intrigue connected to “Paperclip Monster Day” builds on students’ innate curiosity and sense of excitement.

Teachers work one-on-one with students, and scribe their ideas, and memories to preserve the concept on paper. Then, we meet together as a full group, and children share their drawings and explain their celebrations.

Over the following days, each student meets with a teacher to look at the class calendar and schedule the holiday. We look at conflicting events, discuss combining the event with a birthday, consider the seasonal placement, and much more. Students think and reason, explaining their ideas and collaborating with the teacher to select a final date. We fill the calendar with these celebrations, and students can look forward to their upcoming special day and the special days of others.

We often collaborate with each student’s family and invite them to join us in celebrating. Depending on the individual holiday, we may remain in the classroom or venture out into the world. For example, “Fire Truck Day” would not be complete without a walk to the Presidio Fire Station for a tour and a chance to climb aboard the vehicle itself! The student is the leader of their celebration and as the date draws nearer, we sit down for a meeting with them and make some final plans. The student can choose from some suggested ideas after a shared internet research session with a teacher and offer up ideas of their own. (Once in a while, we’ve had to scale back or re-envision some concepts, such as “Hot Tub Day.”) We think about how to include different options for people who especially love math, or art, or movement. The element of choice is key in the creation of celebrations.

Before the celebration, the inventor will share information about the upcoming festivities and answer questions from their classmates. In some cases, “Costume Day” for example, particular dress is encouraged. For others, like “Beach Day,” props and materials from home are requested.

At the end of the year’s reflection times, students frequently look back on these events as special memories. We all enjoy the leadership experience, the individual attention, and the collective enthusiasm these days foster within the group. The collection of all of these celebrations, each unique and differing from year to year, is a fantastic representation of the diversity and individuality of our classroom community and the delightfulness of the kindergarten imagination.