Our big fall festival is tomorrow, with the traditional Medieval theme, so we've been doing fun Medieval history stuff with our third period class, which happens to also be our Skills Class. (Skills Class is a 25 minute block of time, where we work with these kids on checking agendas, organizing binders, and character education stuff.) One of the things we did was to make a class banner or coat of arms.
Since I've taught a class on heraldry at summer camp, I pulled my collection of books out (with lots of gorgeous pictures) and using my document reader showed the kids different patterns and designs. They decided they wanted to do one in school colors (red, white, blue) and make a pinwheel design. It was also decided that each of the seven lab groups would come up with symbols that represented their group and we'd put a symbol on each of the eight pinwheels. There was an extra pinwheel and they insisted that since it was my class, I needed to do a symbol too (I did an apple). We also thought it would be neat to make the symbols out of craft foam (which I bought for them) so it would have a neat 3-D look. We also got smart and printed off graphics of some of the designs (like my apple because I can't draw) and used those as templates.
The kids spent quite a bit of time on this, discussing their symbols, choosing the colors, making the pinwheel part of the banner. They worked great together and really got into the spirit of the thing. Even my severely ADHD kid, Scrawny Boy, worked diligently and was a huge reason the shield got done in time as he was one of the kids who worked on the pinwheel (which seemed to have been the most difficult part). The kids took the choice of their symbols very seriously, discussing and coming to agreements over what they wanted. We had one that was had a basketball hoop, a softball and a gymnast, for my table of athletic girls. We had a dragon for the table that has the kids that are into fantasy and comics. Another table chose a stylized cross (these kids loved hearing about the Crusades) and a heart. It was just so cool to see them work on this so hard.
And we were so sure we would win the prize for the best banner. The kids were pumped! Being a science teacher, I have all sorts of weird odds and ends in my cupboards, so we found some things to add to the banner. We added some silvery cloth to drape over the top, and a bit of cord (made out of kite string), and hung it up along with an explanation about how we arrived at the design and what it meant.
We didn't win.
There was a tie between two other seventh grade classes (Mrs. Reading and Mrs. Robin). When the kids came to their lockers they were downcast and disappointed. They had worked so hard and weren't going to get the donut party the winners were going to get. I felt so bad for them because they really put their hearts into this. Every kid participated, every kid put forth a lot of themselves in choosing their symbols, and I had never been as proud of them as I was this past week. What I saw in my room is what we want to see when kids cooperate and come up with a creative solution to a problem. It was magic.
So, I was at Sam's Club this afternoon, picking up a prescription, and I saw these plastic boxes of cookies just sitting there. And I thought, "you know what, these kids deserve a party even if they didn't win."
So I bought two boxes of cookies and we're going to have our own reward party tomorrow, just because they deserve it and because they are such great kids!