Polar Express 2018

Our Polar Express tradition continued this year in the library. Every year we host a Polar Express Day where every class comes to the library to enjoy hearing the story read aloud. Students and teachers get to wear their pajamas to school.

When they enter the library, they find hallways that have been transformed with special decorations thanks to a special team of elves (teachers) who come back to school at night to create some magic. In the library, the lights are turned off and our tables have been flipped on their sides to form a train that students board. The hot chocolate song comes on and a team of servers (parent volunteers) bring out hot chocolate for all.

A conductor (teacher) holds up the book while we listen to a recording of the story. At the close of the story, our parent volunteers come out and place a bell around each student’s neck and whisper “always believe” into their ears. Students receive a candy cane as they exit.

Many classes take a class photo together by the Barrow tree or with the new backdrop that Ms. Vaughn magically discovered.

This is a special day that takes so many people to pull off. It ends up being one of the many memories that students come back to again and again when they think about what they love about our school. We are so happy to continue this special tradition.

Thank you to:

  • Kim Ness, parent, who purchased bells, string, cups, marshmallows, hot chocolate, and candy canes. Thank you for also organizing our volunteers for the day and for organizing volunteers to prepare bells.
  • Families who donated their time to help the serve hot chocolate, punch tickets, and hand out bells.

  • Renee Williams, lunchroom manager, and the lunchroom superheroes who prepared our hot chocolate and let us borrow carts and trays.
  • Ellen Sabatini, principal, who created our schedule for the day.
  • Sarah Britton Vaughn, Phyllis Childs, Allyson Griffith, and everyone else who helped transform our halls
  • The team of parent volunteers who donated a morning to string over 600 bells.
  • Teachers for being on time, preparing students, turning pages, cleaning up spills, throwing away trash, and sharing your love with our students and families.
  • Katherine Byrne (family engagement specialist) & Lauren McElhannon (counselor) for organizing pajamas for students who didn’t have a pair to wear to school.
  • Our wonderful PTA for providing funds to purchase all of our supplies.
  • Anyone else I may have forgotten. If your name or job isn’t listed, it’s not intentional. This day takes so many hands. Please remind me and I’ll edit this post to include you.

Magazine Ornament Makerspace

Our open makerspace is taking a short break while our student book budget team works on new books for the library. We wrapped up our final makerspace session by hosting an ornament makerspace. Students signed up for this time with their teachers via a Google doc.

I have lots of old magazines that used to be in circulation but aren’t used anymore. I decided to pull them out and use them for our ornament materials as a way to promote reusing materials rather than throwing them out or putting them in recycling.

I wanted students to have a mixture of structure and freedom, so I selected 3 options for structured ornaments with a 4th option of designing your own.

Instructions for these 3 ornaments are found below.

Ornament 1 (top center):

  1. Cut 2 pages from a magazine and fan fold each page.
  2. Stack the 2 fan folds on top of one another and tie in the middle.
  3. If you want, trim the ends of the fan into a fancy design with craft scissors or regular scissors.
  4. Fan out each side and connect together to make a circle. Staple if low on time. Glue if you have time for drying.
  5. Use a hole punch to make a hole and tie a string.

Ornament 2 (bottom left):

  1. Cut multiple strips of the same length from a magazine page.
  2. Bring the ends of each strip together to form a loop.
  3. Repeat the process of bringing ends of strips together and begin adding the loops together.
  4. You might want to use a gem clip to hold the loops together if you have trouble holding them in your hand and folding paper at the same time.
  5. Staple the loops together at the top.
  6. Use a hole punch to create a hole and tie a string. (If you have added a lot of strips, it may be difficult to punch a hole)

Ornament 3 (bottom right):

  1. Cut 5 strips from a magazine page. 2 long, 2 medium, 1 short.
  2. Arrange the strips in this order: long, medium, short, medium, long.
  3. At one end of your stack, make sure the ends of the strips are even and staple them together.
  4. Starting in the center with the short strip, connect the two medium strips to the top of the short strip.
  5. Next, connect the two long strips to the short strip. Staple together.
  6. Use a hole punch to create a hole and tie a string.

When students came to the makerspace session, I quickly showed them the 3 options which were all at their own table.  Then, I showed them a 4th table where they could design their own. Since a UGA class collaborates with us in makerspace, there was a UGA student at each table to assist students as needed with the directions. I also had a UGA student help with hole punching and string tying.

Students were welcome to make as many ornaments as they wanted. They could take them all with them, but they were also welcome to add them to our holiday area of the library. At the front of the library, I have pulled out all of our November/December holiday books and created displays to highlight those holidays such as Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and New Year.

As with every makerspace time, I loved seeing how students took structured ideas and put their own creative spins on them. I also loved seeing what unique ideas students came up with on their own too. It’s always hard to decide how to balance structure with open-ended projects, but I think it’s important to offer both. We all learn in different ways. I’ve seen that some learners have high anxiety when given no structure and others have high anxiety when they have structure and think that their creation has to look exactly like the picture.

Several students did decide to add at least one of their creations to our tree in the library. It’s one more way that we can share ownership of our library.

 

Polar Express 2016

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Every year that we have our Polar Express Day, I’m reminded of the power of community. School-wide events are so rewarding, but they take a lot of work to pull off.  The library hosts multiple school-wide events every year.  A team of special elves come together to make Polar Express Day a special event for every child in our school.  It is often one of the big memories that students have about their year and their experience at Barrow.

Many schools ask us what goes into our Polar Express Day, so here’s a little peek:

  • Our principal creates a schedule so that every class in the school gets a time to come to the library to hear the Polar Express. Most 30-minute sessions 2-3 classes at a time
  • Janice Flory, our library volunteer coordinator (a PTA role) buys bells, string, hot chocolate, cups, and candy canes through PTA.  She also organizes volunteers to help each Polar Express session during the day
  • A group of volunteers works on stringing 600 bells so that every student in the school gets a bell.  This year it was a wonderful troop of Girl Scouts
  • I work on setting up the library with special decorations, chairs, and banners.  I make sure the technical side of Polar Express is working such as the train sounds, read aloud, and special music.  I also work with our volunteer coordinator to make sure all of the pieces are running smoothly.
  • A team of teachers come overnight the night before Polar Express Day and create special hallway decorations such as a train track, ticket booth, and ornaments
  • Our lunchroom makes huge batches of hot chocolate
  • On the day of the event, teams of volunteers help pour and serve hot chocolate as well as hang bells around each student and whisper “Always Believe”.  Kim Ness, parent volunteer extraordinaire & Janice Flory, library volunteer coordinator, help keep the volunteers organized all day.
  • Teachers do special activities in their classrooms such as making Polar Express tickets. They also hold the book as we listen to the story over the library speakers
  • Our family engagement specialist organizes a nighttime Polar Express for Barrow alumni
  • On the day of the event, there’s always lots of odd and ends that have to be done and we all work together to get it done. It is a tight schedule and takes quick moving in between sessions to reset everything for the next group
  • This year we added a green screen photo booth to take a picture with the book as the background. Teachers helped a lot with this as well as our principal.  Next year, we’ll need to have someone stationed here to help it run smoothly

 

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Prek enthusiasm #polarexpress #alwaysbelieve #bells

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Our green screen was a favorite activity this year.  Many teachers jumped in to help with this one because it was a little bit tricky if the app stopped working.  We’ll keep thinking how to make this station a little bit better next year.  Even with some glitches, we got some fun pictures of classes.

Each year holds special memories for Polar Express.  There are special little moments from students all throughout the day. I’m so thankful to have  community who comes together to create this magical event of always believing.

 

 

Polar Express 2015

Polar Express (33)

Our school is filled with tradition, and one of the favorite ones every single year is Polar Express Day.  It takes a huge team of volunteers to pull off this schoolwide event, but it is always a magical day for our students.  Every student hears The Polar Express read aloud while sipping hot chocolate in their pajamas.  Every child receives a bell with the message of “always believe” whispered in their ears.  Each child also receives a candy cane on the way back to class.

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#alwaysbelieve

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Ahead of the event, volunteers purchase supplies to make bells for 600 students.  They spend a morning stringing the bells and prepping them for quick delivery to students on event day.  Another volunteer list is created to help on the day of the event as we have every class in the school come through the library.  A schedule is created and approved by the teachers.  This year, that schedule was very tight due to our increasing size.  Some sessions had 3 classes in them.

The day before the event, the lunchroom gets the hot chocolate so that it is prepped and ready to go.  A special spirit committee meets late at night and transforms the school into the north pole with train tracks, crackling fires, ornaments, and lights.  It is a magical arrival to school.

The first team of volunteers pick up the hot chocolate and start getting it ready for the first group.  At that point, things repeat every 30 minutes.  Music is played as students enter. Hot chocolate is passed out during the hot chocolate song by a team of 3-6 volunteers.

Polar Express (59) Polar Express (60)

We listen to the story while a teacher holds the book.  Then, the same team of volunteers put the bells around all the students’ necks.  Immediately, there is a chorus of bells ringing around the room as students check to see if their bells actually ring.  As always, there were special moments such as a former Barrow buddy returning to hold the book for a grade level.

This year, we even had a spontaneous sing along of Jingle Bells.

Thank you to each and every person who made the 2015 Polar Express day another great success.