More games than I expected required teamwork; the beach ball and parachute volleyball game was all about working together to see how many times they could get the ball over the net and not get the other team to miss. The spelling out of Diegueño related words (Cougars, Blue, Spirit) in student bodies was a mass of collaboration, and the water carrying challenge looked like something out of a Next Generation Science Standards lesson.
Spirit Day at Diegueño means nearly a thousand students and all but a skeleton crew of staff dressed in blue or gold shirts (designed by our art classes) down on our field playing together.
This year saw some new activities join the old standards, and along with the collaborative games, it was fun to see kids prompted to ponder (Giant Jenga), hold hands (on the hula hoop passing challenge), and throw their heads back and laugh.
Making it even more delicious was that they were joined by teachers and parent volunteers, who limboed, tossed horseshoes, and ate Otter Pops alongside the kids.
It was, hyperbolically speaking, a perfect day at school.
What I mean is that this week’s Spirit Day, with a focus on community, connections, and healthy challenges, had in it all the elements of education at its best.
Students were given a variety of opportunities to try to come up with answers: “How can I hang wet Diegueño t-shirts so the clothesline doesn’t dip to the ground?” “How can we work together to get as much water from one bucket to another in a tube with more holes than a flute?” …and they worked together and cheered each other as they brought a hands on approach to figuring things out.
They did all this while laughing with their teachers who, dressed in the same blue and gold Spirit Day shirts, encouraged, inspired, and occasionally guided them, sometimes even jumping in to join the activity.
And when things didn’t go perfectly (I’ll admit that try as I might, I was on the losing end of a tug of war …twice), the feelings weren’t hard, as the focus stayed on the experience even more than the outcome.
This isn’t to say that competition wasn’t real. We love our three legged races at Diegueño, and in our double three legged race determination led students to tumble, creative carrying, and smiles of victory.
That parents were on hand to see the fun only made things better. Armed with scoring clipboards and given specific tasks, parent volunteers felt as much a part of our school family as anyone else. They even got to sneak hellos to their kids, though I heard one 7th grader whisper to his mom from where the human spelling event was going on: “Mom, I can’t talk. I’m an ‘E’.”
I’m not saying that every day of middle school should or could look like our celebration this Monday; my ASB Director would punch me in the mouth if I did, but I do believe that the spirit of the day is something that should, like the blue and gold shirts the kids and staff get to keep, always be visible on campus. I know that when I see folks wearing shirts from Spirit Weeks gone by I feel that sense of belonging and fun.
The memories of Spirit Day will last long beyond the sunburns, and if we’re doing things right (and I believe that we are), the spirit will continue to breathe passion into all that we do.