by Elizabeth Topliffe, Head of School
As a kid, I remember wearing a costume to school for Halloween. One year, my costume was a jumpsuit made of very thin fabric that I could pull on over my clothes. It came with a plastic mask that stretched over my face with a piece of elastic. We had purchased it at the local Haag Drugstore.
At school that Halloween, one of the room parents brought in games, sugary treats, and apples for bobbing. She was dressed as a witch.
I’m confident that we learned nothing on that day other than how to bob for apples…
Fast-forward to when my daughter started at Stepping Stones. I was a bit disappointed when I learned that the school doesn’t celebrate holidays with room parties as my school did when I was young. I thought that my daughter and the other children were missing out on these fun events.
But I know better now.
I understand why we approach things differently here at Stepping Stones. As always, we first consider the children. Holidays often add additional stress to a family. While it is usually “fun stress,” there is a change in routine, extra excitement, different food, and disrupted sleep. For children, the classroom becomes a place of peace and order and routine. It’s important that we preserve that for them.
Even without the additional stress of holidays at home, we want to maintain peace and order in the classroom. Especially for our younger children, the routine of the classroom workday is important to protect. They work best and learn more when they feel safe. An environment that includes routine and peace builds that sense of safety.
Finally, our school community includes families with diverse beliefs, traditions, and celebrations. We do not assume that everyone in our community shares the same holidays or traditions. So when holidays are discussed in classrooms, we do it from the perspective of families. We talk about what children do at home during holidays: A special meal. Seeing extended family. Playing special music or games. Honoring life.
So why start a post about our fall festival with all the reasons why we don’t celebrate holidays? Well, because there are some reasons to celebrate together, outside of classroom time, and I wanted to emphasize those by first explaining why we do not do that in the classroom.
First, this event is planned and prepared by Upper Elementary students. They plan the games, write instructions for the games, call potential judges for the chili cook-off, decide how much to charge for games, work on prizes, and determine where games will take place.
For those students, this is an opportunity to learn how to plan ahead for an event. It teaches them how to work as a team. It offers math lessons (budgeting, money management, and planning for quantity). It offers writing lessons (preparing instructions, communicating ideas, and mapping out a plan).
Second, the event serves as a fundraiser for Upper Elementary for their annual trip to Nature’s Classroom Institute in Wisconsin. Nature’s Classroom is a one-week outdoor learning opportunity for our students. They attend with other Montessori schools, and lessons focus on environmental learning in a rural setting, complete with livestock, sledding, hiking, frog catching, etc.
The students travel to Wisconsin via train and bus, and there is expense associated with their travel. Fall Fest provides funds for meals along the way and helps offset some of the costs of the trip.
Finally, Fall Fest is a tradition within our community. It helps us mark the passage of time and seasons together. It is a time when everyone in our community—children, adults, former students, board members, and extended family—comes together to have fun and to enjoy one another. Yes, it also brings the stress of a holiday into our community. But I wouldn’t miss checking out those costumes for the world.
We’ll see you this Friday evening at Fall Fest!