At the beginning of every school year we invite our children to bring their families and other loved ones to school for our Welcome Picnic. Our purpose is to build relationships. We do this because although we are called a school, we are engaged in more than the education of children, our goal is something greater: our goal is the creation of a mindful and just society. In other words, although we do teach a great deal, we also place emphasis on the connections between beings because we believe that the building blocks of a just and mindful society are relationships built on dignity and respect. This is our Great Work. It starts with each child as an individual immersed in a carefully prepared environment, and then continues as the child moves from a state of dependence to one of independence, from a world of my rug/my work to a world that is cooperative and dynamic. We start with each child as an individual and work towards the child as citizen. At EAC we do educate children, but even more importantly, we build community.
Our celebration of UN Day is the culmination of weeks of study in the classrooms. Children research their countries of origin and learn about their different cultural heritages. On UN Day itself, students and staff dress in costumes to represent their chosen ethnicity. We gather in the multi-purpose room and hear stories from our Middle School students who every fall travel either to the UN or to the Heiffer project’s Overlook Farm. The multi-purpose room is resplendent with the pageantry of the countries and cultures represented. Students then adjourn to classrooms for lunch with family members-magnificent feasts comprised of delicacies from all over the world.
As the hour of noon approaches on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, older buddies gather younger buddies and make way to the multipurpose room for a feast. Each classroom has made a contribution to the feast by preparing enough of one dish to feed the whole school. Prior to dining, we clasp hands and sing, “Tis a Gift to be Simple Tis a Gift to be Free.”
Students spend the days leading up to our Winter Break learning about a specific Festival of Light. They research a tradition that is either currently celebrated, or was at some point in history somewhere in the world. The day before we begin our vacation, everyone gathers in the multi-purpose room and each classroom presents what they have learned. This is a much loved event as magic abounds in the darkened room; the space is brightened only by the twinkle lights that are lit by children as they enter the space. Classrooms perform skits, sing songs, and create beautiful costumes and backdrops. We close by chanting our hope for the future: “We have come to shine our light, in the darkness of the night. Each of us is one small flame, but together we’re a blaze. Go away sickness and despair; go away and stay away.”
We celebrate May Day in a different way each year. Sometimes we might raise a May Pole and dance together. Other years we have adorned ourselves in branches and leaves and paraded in our Field of Dreams, using drums and other instruments to welcome in the day-o.
Ithaca Festival Parade