The Story of Our Names: A Grandparent’s Day Experience

Last year, our PTA started hosting a Grandparent’s Day coffee hour at our school. Grandparents gather in the cafeteria for coffee and donuts, chat with their grandchildren, and listen to a short program. Following the program, there are opportunities for photos and school tours.

I love being a part of this special event. Both years, I’ve read a grandparent-related story during the program. Last year, it was Last Stop on Market Street. This year, I read Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal. It is a story of a girl who thinks her name is way too long, but then her dad tells her the story of each part of her name. Alma realizes that she has connections to every part of her name and no longer feels like it doesn’t fit. I loved that when I read this special story about where a name comes from that the cafeteria filled with hundreds of grandparents and grandchildren got silent and attentive.

At the close of the book, I shared the author note at the back which ends with a question: “What is the story of your name? What story would you like to tell?” With that question, I invited grandparents to stop by the library to chat with their grandchild about family names and where they came from. We tried to capture a few of these stories on video, but the more important thing was just having the conversation.

I also selected several books to place on tables for grandparents and grandchildren to read together. It was so special to look around and see families huddled together around books reading. Even though it was crowded an bustling in the library, families were having special moments all around the library.

So many people came up to me to tell me how special the book Alma was to them. I loved that we all made our own connections around this story and the importance of names. I hope this created a spark for many families and they will continue to talk about family traditions and names with even more members of the family.

Grandparents, Dots, and Making Our Mark

We had a very short week due to Hurricane Irma, but we still had time for some miraculous things happening in the library. September 15 was International Dot Day, but at Barrow, we also celebrated Grandparent’s Day for the very first time.

These two events fit perfectly together because it gave grandparents and grandchildren a space of time to share conversations, stories, creativity, and think about how we are all making our mark in the world.

The morning started in the cafeteria with a donuts and coffee event organized by our amazing PTA.  Well over 300 grandparents & children gathered in the cafeteria and shared table conversations around these questions.

Then, I shared Matt De La Pena and Christian Robinson’s Last Stop on Market Street. I loved sharing this grandparent story about seeing the beautiful in the world. So many grandparents came up to me to talk about how much they loved this story and how much it meant to them to hear it. I was so worried about choosing a book for a crowd this large, but this one spoke to so many.

Following the story, I showed the table conversation questions again and invited families to stop by the library to record some of their conversations using Flipgrid. The library was filled with grandparents and grandchildren. Several did record their stories, and there are so many special moments in the videos.  I hope you’ll take a moment to listen, react, and respond to some of them.

Grandparents and grandchildren also sat down together all around the library reading stories to one another. Some visited our Lego wall and build creations together. Others took coffee filters and design collaborative dots in honor of International Dot Day.

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Grandparents day and dot day #dotday #grandparentsday

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The library was buzzing for almost an hour.

After grandparents left, our day continued with many classes coming to the library for Dot Day. We of course read The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, but we also read The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken.  I loved how these two books paired together. Both spread the messages of getting started, persevering, making a mark and seeing where it goes, and realizing the potential that is hiding inside you.  During the stories, we had conversations about what it means to make your mark on the world and students shared many of their ideas of how they are already making their mark.

After each story, students practiced the idea of physically making a mark on paper and seeing where it took them. Students took a coffee filter and made one mark as a symbol of starting and then each students continued the dot creation to see what emerged.

I loved walking around and seeing the individuality of each student and dot. No two dots looked alike even though every one started with just one mark.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain Dot Day to people who haven’t heard of it, but when you experience the story, conversations, and creativity that are made public on this day, it brings Dot Day to life in a whole new way.

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Dot gallery walk #dotday #creativity

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How did you make your mark on Dot Day? What did you try that was new?  I hope that this year (and next) I can continue this conversation between students/families about how we are all making our mark in the world.

 

Community Collaboration: Book Making in the Makerspace

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I love opportunities to connect with community and bring expertise, talents, and interests to our students.  Recently, a parent contacted me to tell me that her child’s grandmother was traveling to Athens to visit and would love to do book making with some students at our school.  I immediately responded back that we would love to have this opportunity in our makerspace, and the planning began.

Grandmother Kathleen sent me a list of supplies we would need, so I ordered those from Amazon in advance.  She packed everything else on her flight from Texas.

I also communicated with Gretchen Thomas at UGA to let her know that her students could help Kathleen during this makerspace time.  I let teachers know the topic of the makerspace in advance and students signed up to participate across two days (Tuesday and Thursday).

When Kathleen arrived, her enthusiasm for art was contagious.  You could tell that she was an amazing art teacher in Texas.  She had multiple examples of books she had made from instruction found in Making Books that Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist, and Turn.

 

She had a different kinds of book planned for each group who visited the makerspace: 1st & 3rd grade, 5th grade, and 4th grade.

Before each group arrived, she put materials at each chair with the  help of Gretchen’s UGA students.  She gave very clear, step-by-step instructions for each group and me and the UGA students went around assisting students as needed.

Because each project took more than 30-minutes, we reached a stopping point and then stored the projects for Thursday.

Each book had its own purpose and made me and the students think about so many possibilities. One book allowed you to record things from different perspectives. Another book allowed you to write your own Choose Your Own Adventure story with pull out cards.  Another book fanned out like a flower and allowed you to put poems, photographs, and more within the folds.

Each time Kathleen showed us a book, my mind was swirling with connections to each grade level’s curriculum.  Students were focused, productive, and buzzing with excitement about today’s makerspace.  I bet that when students are involved in the process of creating their own published books, they are more likely to fill those books with productive writing.  I know that when I personally made my own book during the final 30-minute session, I really wanted to go home and fill it with writing and photographs.

I was reminded once again about how many interests and talents are hiding within our students, families, extended families, and community.  Alone, I would not have thought much about book making or how to attempt it with groups of students.  However, now that the expertise of a grandparent was shared with me and our students, I’m considering new possibilities with projects.

How many more talents and interests are just waiting for us within our communities?  How do we tap into these resources? This was an opportunity that was given to me, but I know that if I had a way of unearthing and organizing the wealth of talents and interests in our community that more opportunities like this would make its way to our students and teachers.