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What an exciting time to be alive! Right here in our own backyard of the U.S., we recently experienced the State of the Union Address, witnessed a super/blood/blue moon, and on St. Valentine’s Day, we decked the world with hearts and flowers before we closed out the month of love. Somewhere in the middle of all of that was Super Bowl LII and the Opening Ceremony for  the 2018 Winter Olympics. Although we are sometimes surrounded by big events, it is often that great ideas are born out of the smaller, less noticed moments of a day.

Mrs. Wheeler, first-grade teacher, and Mrs. Callis, second-grade teacher, both of Coppell Classical Academy (CCA), stood in a school hallway recently sharing their enthusiasm and life-long love of the Olympics and all that it represents. What stood out to both of them was the sense of unity that the Olympics creates. For a few minutes, they revelled in the wonder and then went about their typical-teacher day of trying to accomplish something extraordinary in the lives of students through humble means. What they didn’t realize, was that their conversation had already sparked something extraordinary.

About a week later, those two teachers connected again over the phone one evening.They discussed the idea of bringing the Opening Day Olympic Ceremony to life for CCA students. Mrs. Wheeler and Mrs. Callis decided that the answer would be a campus-wide cultural dress day that would accompany a flag parade, complete with the passing of a ceremonial torch. This would be a way to celebrate and help students understand how the Olympics is a world unifying event and an example of character traits such as courage, excellence, integrity, honor and self-control. With the support of the Campus Director Chris Sisk, Wheeler and Callis went to work on planning and facilitating the day. The end result represented a CCA staff team effort and the student impact was significant.

Ornately-dressed students representing and carrying the colorful flags of 23 different countries marched through the doors with the stately melody of “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” playing in the background. During the opening remarks, students received a character education lesson from Mrs. Callis, which is something ResponsiveEd’s Classical Academies proudly incorporate into their daily teachings. In the closing remarks, Mrs. Wheeler explained the purpose of the torch lighting ceremony and the symbolism it represents in the student’s own lives. She closed with a challenge to each young heart and mind, “It is important that you keep your fire lit and burning brightly. It’s important that you give your all just like the athletes in the Olympic events. You can’t give up. You can’t stop until you get the gold medal. And when is that? You decide what your gold medal is and you decide everyday.”

After the event, excited and positive comments came rolling in from all sides. Mrs. Porter, another teacher at CCA said, “That was awesome. I do not get moved to tears often, but watching the pride and excitement on the faces of the kids carrying their flags did me in. Thank you for starting the day off with greatness.”

Divya Dornadula, a parent of two international CCA students, one in the elementary and one at the middle school, said, “They did a great job. I would like to thank the school for bringing in this fantastic idea and I appreciate the efforts of all the staff involved in making this a success. I really appreciate all the kids who showed so much enthusiasm.”

“It was my greatest hope that something wonderful would happen at a heart level for CCA students that day. I am reminded of this quote from Aristotle, ‘Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.’ Something amazing did happen. With the focus that morning being on unity and diversity, the message rang loud and clear to all in the room that together we are better,” said Callis.

With a diverse student population and today’s generation of students growing up in a globally-connected world, Coppell Classical Academy teachers and staff strive to be culturally relevant. “The culturally relevant teacher emphasizes not only academic success, but also social and cultural successes (Pankake & Littleton, 2012, p. 66),”  Chris Sisk, CCA campus director said.  “As a campus, we feel something with tangible benefits has been accomplished through this activity for our students. We want to encourage other campuses to celebrate the cultural beauty within their own walls. As this happens, students will carry that positive message beyond the building and into their communities multiplying the impact.”

If you are interested in creating your own event, here are some details from the Coppell Classical Academy event to assist you.  

The planning and preparation process

  • Draft email to teachers
    • Include event name, date, time, place, special instructions for what is needed, actionable items,due dates, meeting place and time for students prior to event (such as a classroom).
    • Send a video of a prior Olympic opening day celebration for teachers to show students and provide background experience.
    • Email parents with what is needed for their student(s).
      • Teachers were asked to select four to five students from diverse countries of origin to bring, or create, flags to carry in the parade and to wear traditional clothing native to their cultural heritage and country of origin.
  • Draft email for the school office manager or administrator
    • They will send the email to all campus families inviting them to participate in a Cultural Dress Day.
  • Draft and send reminder emails
    • Ask teachers for the names of students and the countries they represent.  The office manager, or administrator, will send reminders to parents of the Cultural Dress Day.
  • Create a faux torch
    • Coppell Classical Academy used a styrofoam cone wrapped in gold duct tape. Cellophane tissue paper was used to make it glitter. Double-sided cellophane colors were red, gold, and clear. The light was a headlamp flashlight that had a red light option; the strap was taken off. Using a power drill, a hole was drilled to embed the flashlight so it would sit down in the torch.
    • See the olympic torch Coppell Classical Academy created here and here.
  • Create the backdrop
    • Have a class of students prepare the Olympic ring logo with colored markers on white mural paper and cut out. This may require some teacher assistance depending upon the age of the students.
      • In this instance, first graders prepared the logo. It was then hung with tape on the gym wall.
  • Test the “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” music
    • Have a sound person ready to play the music on a device hooked up to the sound system where it can be heard through the speakers in the gym. Test it the day before to make sure everything is working.

On the day of the event:

  • Arrival
    • Make sure teachers on transportation duty are aware that any students arriving with flags should go to the pre-designated meeting area (classroom) at 7:30 a.m.
  • Line Up
    • In the designated meeting area, facilitators should immediately greet students and have them take coats and backpacks to their usual place of storage. Students should then be assisted with getting into a line in the hallway. Students representing the countries were placed by country in alphabetical order. All the students representing the same country walked to together. Extra hands (other teachers) will need to be present to help with crowd control so that students stay in proper order.
  • Morning Assembly Event
    • When the morning assembly begins, the first facilitator will share opening comments and then announces one country at a time to enter the gym. When all countries have entered, the torch is announced and carried in by the Campus Director. The second facilitator shares clothing remarks. Following the assembly,  students are dismissed to class. All participants of the flag parade can have their picture taken as a group or by country. This is also a good photo opportunity for parents.

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