When we think back to our own elementary and high school experiences, we may recollect a favorite teacher, but it is doubtful that we remember much about a particular class or specifically what we learned in that class. More likely, we might recall some special event such as a game or meet, a competition, a dance, or a musical performance. We also likely remember our best friends and the activities we enjoyed doing with them.
At the end of the year, I ask our graduates to write down some of their favorite memories from their years at St. Michael’s School and I share some of those at the closing brunch. Students usually mention a favorite teacher and then they go on to write about the meaningful times when they felt especially happy and connected. Some of those experiences have included May Crowning, First Holy Communion, Mercy Corps, Sixth Grade Camp, or the Walk-a-thon. While we are conscientious that we must prepare students academically so that they may be successful in high school, we also know that the way students access that learning is monumentally important. It is application that provides meaning to learning and makes it “stick.” Any opportunity that we have to engage students in a hands-on experience is a goal. Third graders demonstrate their knowledge through Expert Expo and the Poetry Café; fourth and fifth graders participate in the Walk-Through programs to better understand the history of California and the American Revolution; middle school students are engaged in project-based learning in a multi-disciplinary (Science, Math, Art, Technology) approach, and eighth graders are tasked with presenting a homily as a culmination of their religious education.
Then there are times that, while educational, are just downright fun. Take, for example “Pig Day,” which the third graders will experience on Wednesday. This tradition has been part of our school culture for over 20 years, and it is a favorite. On Thursday, North Campus students remember the birthday of Dr. Seuss. They will dress up in their favorite character outfits and participate in “Read Across America.” Add to that the “Canstruction” after the Thanksgiving Food Drive, the 100th Day of School, and Field Day, and we have likely connected with just about everyone in some way. Learning can sometimes be hard work, so it is perfectly fine to encourage the learning process with a little bit of goofiness.
Most importantly, learning should not stop once our students finish their formal education. We hope that our students find a passion in learning that extends beyond a classroom and becomes a life-long quest for knowledge. Take some time this week to share with your children some of your favorite school experiences, and ask them when they jump in the car at the end of the day, “what was the best part of your day today?” (and “nothing” is not an acceptable response!).