Polar Express 2012 & Participatory Culture

5th Graders received special blue bells this year

5th Graders received special blue bells this year

Every year our Polar Express Day is an event that students, teachers, and families look forward to.  We of course wear our pajamas and listen to the story in the school library, but it’s much more than that.  We want students to experience the story.  A conductor with a flickering lantern meets classes and leads them to the train tracks of the Polar Express.  The path is lined with multiple decorations:  lights, student-made art, train tracks, a ticket booth, railroad signs, and more.

Here’s what the students saw this year:

A sample of music from the Polar Express movie plays while students enter the library and take their seats.  A spotlight illuminates the book that awaits them.  The hot chocolate song comes on and students are served hot chocolate with marshmallows.  After listening to the story, every child receives a bell placed around their neck with the words “always believe” whispered in their ears.  Students immediately begin shaking their bells, which sounds like this:

As they exit the library, they receive a candy cane.  Many of our 5th graders cry on this day as they experience their final Polar Express Day.  We have even started having a Polar Express alumni night for people to come back and experience the magic.

This year, I’ve been thinking about our participatory culture and how much participation is involved in this event.  Here are some examples:

  • Our principal organizes a schedule, volunteers, and materials
  • Our lunchroom staff makes hot chocolate
  • Parent volunteers purchase all of the materials and supplies
  • Parent volunteers (and some students) string the 450 bells
  • Parent volunteers pour and serve the hot chocolate and place bells around students’ necks
  • Teachers and students work with me to decorate the library and hallways.  Many teachers come back at night to decorate in order to have the element of surprise on the morning of Polar Express.  Every year, the decorations are different depending on what the teachers dream up in the moment.
  • This year, for the first time, many students made decorations to line the hallways with.  One of our enrichment clusters made decorations and some students made decorations on their own.

At times, I’ve felt guilty that so many people help with this event, but this year things began to click in my mind as I realized that this is an event sponsored by the library that is truly owned by the entire school.  I hope to think more about this in years to come and look for more ways that students can be involved in this special day.

 

Exemplary Elementary Media Program Open House

Mark your calendars.  On Thursday March 3, 2011, the David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center will hold an open house in honor of its distinction as the Georgia exemplary elementary media program for 2010.  The event will last from 7:30AM-4:00PM with student showcases of work and opportunities to tour and explore the kinds of learning that take place inside the Barrow Media Center.  Everyone is welcome to attend.  RSVPs are greatly appreciated, but not necessary.  Stop by for a few minutes or spend the whole day!

If you plan to attend the Georgia Conference on Children’s Literature on March 4-5, 2011, this is a great reason to head into Athens early and explore a media center that is just one block away from the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.

David C. Barrow Elementary is located at 100 Pinecrest Drive Athens, GA 30605.  Parking is limited in Barrow’s upper and lower lots on Pinecrest Drive, but additional parking is available across Lumpkin Street at the Campus View Church of Christ.  Do not park on Rutherford Street or in any UGA lots.

We hope to see you in March.

Send RSVPs or questions to plemmonsa at clarke.k12.ga.us or call (706) 543-2676 ext 38280