Before it started, as students were setting up booths and the dance team was organizing itself on the outdoor stage opposite the dunk tank and robotics display, a student came up to me and described it as “SDA’s favorite day.”
I smiled at him; the claim seemed hyperbolic, especially on the heels of such great events as class javas, opening a time capsule, and a string of amazing homeroom olympics events. “It’s my first Exhibition Day,” I admitted. “You’re going to love it,” he replied, and then he disappeared into the crowd of students packing in baskets of homemade jewelry and getting ready to set up the drum circle.
Exhibition Day has been a San Dieguito tradition for almost twenty years. It’s an opportunity for students to celebrate the pursuits they love: music, art, motorcycles, you name it. Once there was a petting zoo.
This year saw a skateboarding demonstration, a bouncy slide, and a car show. Student entrepreneurs sold t-shirts designed and created in our screen printing shop, homemade organic soap, and Henna tattoos. The Photography Club had a booth with cards and prints, the Thespians read palms and painted faces, and one of my assistant principals assured me that the Bento bowl she got from the Japanese National Honor Society was fantastic.
A little like a carnival, a little like a swap meet, and a little like an alternative music festival, this student imagined and student run event (with a little help from our veteran ASB advisor) is a celebration of the things that our students are passionate about beyond the walls of school. It’s a place for open mic poetry, hula dancing, and the student selling her own line of swimwear. Exhibition Day brings sea glass jewelry, succulents, and waffles to campus. It invites the unexpected.
In addition to the Saturday Market side of things, students and adults who call San Dieguito home also had opportunities to engage with each other in creative pursuits. Many hands and many brushes painted the “art car.” Up by our Mosaic Cafe blindfolded pottery throwing inspired the senses while just inside the Mosaic a cavalcade of student musicians entertained audiences in an intimate venue.
More raucous fans cheered on our Comedy Sportz performers in the theater, and throngs of students yelled along with the growling rock and roll bands who played in the outdoor amphitheater.
What impressed me most was how happy everybody was. Students laughed and joked. I saw I could buy “Bad Advice” for fifty cents and “Awkward Compliments …and tape” for only a quarter.
Teachers populated the dunk tank and later cradled the student made items they’d purchased as they walked from booth to booth. One of my assistant principals led a dance line during a heavy metal concert on the outdoor stage.
I was enjoying all this when the chair of my English Department challenged me to a race through the bouncy slide. Moved by the spirit of the day, I ignored that she was fit and young, and I pulled off my shoes and accepted the high fives of the students clustered around the starting line.
Note to self: 46 year old men do not belong on bouncy slides.
But, boy was it fun.
Everything about the day was a blast, and celebrated the funky, free spirited reality that is San Dieguito. Around every corner was an unexpected delight: Pokemon Cards, sushi, and a chalk mandala. On every face was a smile, and behind each eye the twinkle of possibility.
Our school board president stopped by, as she often does to visit campus, and her laughter and happy interaction with our students told me that she could feel it too. She knew, as she witnessed students making music and art, and feeling free to be themselves, that this was something magical.
This was, to put it simply, SDA’s favorite day.