With help and insight from our Diversity and Inclusion Committee, for the past couple of years PSA has been working to decenter July 4th as the only large summer holiday. In 2019, we combined Pride Month, Juneteenth, and July 4th into one big celebration and reflection on freedom, our very own Freedom Fest.
Last summer, we staged some school-wide provocations about freedom and flags, open to all our students and families in our central piazza. We had a big celebration on the side hill, with the whole school coming together to sing songs about freedom and enjoy a summer popsicle.
This year, Freedom Fest, like a many things, had to adapt to our new COVID-19 policies: no large groups, no in-person interactions with other classrooms, and no in-person music or art classes. When planning this new form of Freedom Fest, our Music and Art Specialist keep some intentions in mind.
- How can we celebrate Freedom Fest in a meaningful yet socially distant way?
- How can we do a whole school music and art collaboration to nurture connection during this time apart?
- How can we connect our community and the powerful social movement for a more just and inclusive world?
These intention align with the first goal of anti-bias education: IDENTITY. “Each child will demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride and positive social/group identities.”
To start, all of our classrooms were presented with a flag-making provocation. They listened to the song Freedom by the Isley Brothers, and talked about the lyrics.
Teacher: What does freedom mean?
Student: If you give a little treat to someone… like a candy or cake.
Student: You can go somewhere that you don’t usually go.
The teachers were encouraged to choose a couple lines from the song, and open up a conversation about what it does (and doesn’t mean).
Teacher: What does it mean to play what you want to play?
Student: You can just let people play. Like a game or play inside. You can just do what you do.
Student: You could play legos!
Teacher: What is something that you couldn’t do with legos or games or playing inside?
Student: Well, you can’t break them or be mean with them. You have to be careful and nice.
Student: You can do a lot of stuff but you can’t do everything.
Student: All I know is, we have to kind and fair. You (teacher) always say ‘your words matter‘.
After talking about freedom and what it means to us, the classrooms were invited to explore flags. Flags are a way to show that people belong to a group and to celebrate the things they share in common. Flags usually show ideas about the group through shapes and colors (and sometimes words). We looked at some examples of flags recognize and see what we notice.
Then, the classrooms set about designing their own flags. Each classroom tackled this project a bit differently. In the youngest classroom, they approached flag provocation with an emphasis on collaboration and independence. It’s valuable (in general and especially at the toddler age) for children to understand that group membership and collaboration is important, but within that framework we are also free to be our unique selves.
First, they all painted together on an open background. Later on, they divided the flag into four panels, so each child had their own special space to add drawings.
Another classroom, the Copper Room, has been spending most of their days outside. Before making their own flag, they discussed how the flags they explored previously didn’t have detailed pictures but had SYMBOLS and SHAPES that represented a picture and meaning. After some discussion, the class came up with a list of things that were important to their class as well as words describe the Copper Room children.
Teacher: What might we want to include in a flag that would represent the Copper Room?
Student: Maybe like stars of something for each child in the class?
Student: Maybe the stick forts?
Student: What about Copper Corner? (the Copper Room’s name for their outdoor classroom area)
Student: And the mulberry trees.
Once the class had decided on the elements and arrangement of those elements for the flag, a pencil drawing was done. Next, one student did a very careful tracing of those pencils lines with sharpie and then the rest of the class completed the process by adding the colors. It was truly a group effort!
After carefully designing their flag, each classroom had the opportunity to recreate it – large scale in our parking lot! The front parking lot at PSA was a perfect blank canvas for many reasons:
- We didn’t have to get a city permit (costing money and time) to paint in our lot.
- The lot is sitting empty this summer (except during pick up and drop off) so we did not need to work around traffic/ parked cars.
- The spaces are large enough so we can be safely socially distanced from one another while creating.
- Even though they aren’t gathering with their friends in other classes, children can see & celebrate each other’s creations.
- Although families & caregivers aren’t able to enter the building, this allows them to see a glimpse of PSA’s vibrant creativity on display.
Each mixed-age group approached the design and painting processes a little bit differently but each flag beautifully represents their ideas about freedom and their class identity.
We’re so impressed with the results of this project! Special thanks to: