Marlborough – For Isabella Bettinger, 8, "Celebrate Me Day" at Richer Elementary School meant a lot of work, and a lot of learning – not about school topics, but about her classmates.
Principal Joanne Stocklin said Isabella, a third-grader, managed to fill a book with artwork and information about herself in only two weeks, when she first entered the school after moving to Marlborough. Then she had a chance not only to share the information with her new schoolmates, but also learn about them.
The school's first "Celebrate Me Day" involved a series of projects that allowed students to complete a variety of projects that could be used as a way to inform others about their interests, family, culture or personal history.
"It's a good day, because kids can learn about other kids in their school," said Matthew Allen, 8.
And that was the point. School adjustment counselor Karen Rivera-Edmond brought the idea from her last position in a Connecticut school.
"The goal is to have each child celebrate themselves and celebrate individuality," Rivera-Edmond said. "It creates a sense of community and connects children who may have similar interests that probably wouldn't have made that connection."
The children filled white books ; second-graders made PowerPoint presentations; third graders made showcases; then the classes followed a schedule that Stocklin devised, allowing them to visit and host other classes. Kindergarten students made "Me Balls" out of decorated paper plates that were stapled together, Rivera-Edmond said.
The day ended with an all-school meeting at which Stocklin presented a surprise to the students and faculty.
"While we're celebrating your individuality, I didn't want you to forget we are a school and a family," she said. "This is my celebration of my wildcats and my staff at Richer."
Then Stocklin played a slide show of the students and teachers. "Wildcat" derives from the school mascot, "Richie Richer," a wildcat selected through a voting process in the school last year. Stocklin initiated the process to help build community in the school during her first year as principal, she said. Many of the students wore the tie-dyed wildcat Tshirts.
And "Celebrate Me Day" was a community effort not only on the students' part, Rivera-Edmond said. Teachers were instrumental in the day's success, helping brainstorm ideas and projects, and then guiding the students through their projects, she said.
Sandy MacCormac, a first-grade teacher, and Faye Lessner, a third-grade teacher, said the classroom visits allowed the students to work on their social skills.
MacCormac said she talked with her students about how they could show interest in other students' projects.
"We brainstormed questions we could ask and compliments they could give," she said.
Lessner also worked with her class to come up with comments, too, and the process worked even better after they practiced during lunch.
"It was nice to see the interaction of the students," she said.
The preparation for the event involved a lot of work, MacCormac said.
"I think the kids are proud they did it," she said. "Being able to showcase [the work] is the keystone."
Eric Lopez smiled as he showed off his white book, filled with colorful pictures.
"It's exciting," he said, "that everybody comes here because they can know stuff about me."