Once-a-Year Days

There is a song in the musical, “The Pajama Game”, that celebrates a company’s “Once-a-Year Day” – that special day when work stops and fun happens. For our lower school boys, those days are taking place each week as the year comes to a close. Each grade has a day, set aside on the calendar, to enjoy the culmination of many days of lessons and preparation. Kindergarten has their Mother’s Tea/Dad Kindy500, pre-first their art show, first grade has Pioneer Day, second grade has Immigration Day, third their Day of Exploration, fourth a Math Fair, and fifth finishes a year-long study of early America with a Colonial Day. The boys look forward to these days, sometimes for years after watching older brothers and big buddies. They read, research, write, plan, practice, and perform for weeks at a time. Third grade and second grade begin special units in the spring that lead to day-long reenactments. While fourth and fifth grades pull from many lessons learned throughout the school year.


“Learn by doing”, “project-based learning”, “make thinking visible” are all buzz phrases used by educators today. Basically, the main idea of these teaching methods is to actively engage the learner in activities that allow them to demonstrate knowledge. Our “once-a-year” days embody this idea. The boys’ performance on that day demonstrates the many weeks of learning that has taken place in the classroom. Teachers, and the audience that attends, acknowledge the ownership of material learned by each boy. Our young first grade pioneers know every hazard of the trail and can recount many adventures that would take place on the journey west. Our pre-first boys led their parents though a carefully hung art show recently, “teaching” them about every artist their work was modeled after.


On Friday, the second grade relived the life of a nineteenth century immigrant. Their unit began months ago and included writing, performing, math calculations, artwork, and science in the form of medical examinations. This day embodied the hands-on, learn-by-doing type of education mentioned in so many educational journals and blogs. The boys hardly noticed the “learning” as they immersed themselves in history. However, ask any second grade boy what conditions were like for the various “class” citizens crossing the Atlantic, and they can tell you first hand – from what each group ate, to who was more likely to get wet!


Soon the fifth grade will conclude their year-long Colonial unit with a “Colonial Day”. This tradition started eight years ago after watching the great learning that happened on these “once-a-year days”. The boys will model themselves after the acting guides they saw the other week in Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg. After self-selecting one aspect of colonial life to research, the boys work together to present information to parents and lower school boys on May 26.


Later that week, fourth grade hosts our sister school for an annual “math fair” and Kindergarten revs it up for a Kindy 500 “race” with dads in tow. Like the Kindy race, the year is taking fast turns around the track right now and will soon come to the finish line. It is so hard to believe that the school year is just a matter of weeks, if not days. I think the fifth grade have the official count at under twenty days! I hope parents are able to enjoy this busy time of year and these special days with their sons. I will continue to send tweets and post pictures for those who need to experience things a little more remotely. Enjoy!


I hope that my communication with you each week encourages “talking points” to inspire weekend conversation with your son or sons. Here are some “talking points” for this weekend.



  • If you are in Kindergarten- Who got married last weekend? Have you started preparing you car for the big race?
  • If you are in Pre-First- What is your favorite part of the Pre-first art show held the other week? What did you discover in science when you looked at the egg under the light?


  • If you are in First Grade- Tell me about some of the preparations you did for the big Pioneer Day last week. What are some of the things you learned about pioneers from your friends? How did you create the script for the play?
  • If you are in Second Grade- What did you enjoy about Immigration Day? What part did you take in the events of the day?
  • If you are in Third Grade- How did you challenge yourself when climbing the Alpine Tower (Rocky Mts) the other week?

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  • If you are in Fourth Grade- What did you learn about the Chesapeake Bay during your Living Classrooms trip ?
  • If you are in Fifth Grade- Did you feel the band performance went well on Friday? Why or why not? Have you started preparing for Colonial Day? Why did you have a big southern breakfast on Tuesday last week? How did it tie into your current novel, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry?




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