It’s Spirit Week for the Elementary students at ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY, which means no uniforms and lots of creative outfits for the theme of the day. This year, Spirit Week includes themes like Mythical Monday, Wacky Wednesday, and Famous Figure Friday. While the Grade 5 Student Action Committee usually determines the themes, this year was a little different and a lot more educational with the all the Elementary students involved in selecting the theme for one day for Spirit Week.
The Grade 3 students have been working on their unit of inquiry on Democracy, Presidents, and Media. With Spirit Week on the calendar, the Grade 3 teachers saw a valuable opportunity for an authentic learning experience for their students. “We wanted to find a way to take what they were learning in the classroom and use it in a real-life experience,” explained Seth Lee-Yee, Grade 3 teacher. “Mr. Ross worked with us to come up with ideas on how we could make it happen.”
They decided to have their students determine the theme for Thursday of Spirit Week using what they had learned about democratic values and processes. One of the key features of a democracy is that every citizen has a vote, so they planned to hold an “election” for the Elementary students to decide the theme. “We had the classes brainstorm ideas and each class voted for their top four themes,” explained Darci Asato-Garcia, Grade 3 teacher. “Then we looked at what the two classes came up with and selected the top four options to create four student teams.”
The four teams – representing Pajama Day, Sports Day, Twins Day, or Character Day – then worked to organize a campaign for their theme. Their campaigns included creating and distributing campaign flyers, developing a platform, and debating the merits of their theme. At one of the Monday morning assemblies, each team presented its platform to the Elementary students through persuasive videos, speeches, and colorful posters urging the students to vote for their theme. During the week, all the Elementary students and faculty had a chance to vote for their choice. The older students cast their votes online through a Google form, while the Kindergarteners and Grade 1 students voted at a special polling station set up in Mrs. Yoshino’s class. The youngest students learned about the process and importance of voting by first watching a video of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” before casting their votes using iPads in individual voting “booths.” Each little voter got an “I Voted!” sticker to commemorate the experience.
After all the votes were tallied, Sports Day was the winner of the popular vote and became the official theme for Thursday of Spirit Week.
“The students did an awesome job,” said Lee-Yee. “They learned the importance of voting and having an opportunity to have a voice, and they got to go through the process of campaigning for a specific idea, which tied into our Media unit as well.”
Asato-Garcia agreed. “This project gave them an inside look at how they could get behind a certain platform and do the actual work to promote their ideas,” she shared. “They were able to see how their campaign made a real impact and influenced other students.”
“Using Spirit Week to demonstrate the democratic process was key to their learning because the students were voting on something that really mattered to them – a theme for a Spirit Week day,” said Steve Ross, Elementary Principal. “This was a great example of our teachers continuing to enhance learning experiences for their students to make it more relevant and meaningful while applying what they’ve learned.”