Something new, something old: Greeting the new school year
DOUGLAS COUNTY – As the doors open throughout schools in Douglas County this month, it is not uncommon for students to feel inundated by all things new. The beginning of the academic year arrives with a clean slate, a fresh set of school supplies, new teachers and classmates, and for some, a new school altogether.
Many schools, however, begin the new school year with something old.
Traditions in many forms have developed through the years as an avenue to connect new students, families and staff with those returning, and unite the school community with a renewed sense of purpose and belonging. Many first day of school traditions have been passed on for years; some from one generation to another.
For elementary school students, the tradition of gathering outdoors with parents and school staff is a fun way to “warm up” before entering the building. Upbeat music, happy chanting, and posters of encouragement pave the way as energetic students gather with their class and meet their teacher.
To reinforce the sense of unity and community, children attending Summit View Elementary arrived in identical, brightly colored t-shirts for their opening ceremony. During this year’s presentation, school leaders recognized sponsors who contributed to a major painting project at the school.
Prairie Crossing Elementary students gathered around the flagpole and honored their school and country during a flag-raising event.
Traditions also occur outside of school hours. Saddle Ranch Elementary team members sweetened up the first day of school by hosting an evening Ice Cream Social for students and parents.
At the secondary level, time-honored traditions exist for elementary school graduates transitioning to middle school and for high school freshmen. These events are specifically designed to reduce the heightened sense of anxiety that the “new” factor can bring students progressing to the next level.
At Mountain Ridge Middle School, eighth grade RAM Leaders greet the incoming seventh graders on the front lawn. The leaders answers questions about everything from schedules to lunch. The RAM team also provides escorts to classrooms, teacher introductions and advice about navigation throughout the school.
Day two at Mountain Ridge opens with an upbeat, all-school assembly. “Welcome to the Jungle” plays in the background to add a little humor and make the newcomers feel comfortable.
At Castle Rock Middle School, the first day begins with an outdoor assembly and school pledge created to engage everybody. Seventh graders then link up with their teachers and travel to their classrooms to learn routines and participate in team-building activities. The second half of the day consists of a reduced schedule allowing the seventh graders to practice moving from one class to another pressure-fee.
High schools in Douglas County enlist upper classmen to participate in Link Crew, a program that introduces freshmen to junior and senior leaders. Link Crew members provide school tours, conduct icebreakers and team-building exercises and give insight into daily life at their school.
Waking up—and arriving at school—before dawn is not something normally associated with teenage behavior, but Castle View, Chaparral and Legend High seniors prove that it can be done, and done with enthusiasm.
For these early risers, the beginning of the final year of high school is commemorated with the traditional “Senior Sunrise.” Students, parents and school staff members gather to watch the sun rise on this symbolic day. Parents provide juice and breakfast snacks to help kick off the school year on an upbeat note.
Before long, school will again become routine, with homework and after-school activities taking the place of back to school jitters. School leaders will remember, though, that the relationships triggered and friendships renewed during back to school observations form the foundation for a sense of belonging and a successful school year.