By Jayne Griffin
Director of Education
“You’re a grand old flag, you’re a high flyin’ flag, and forever in peace may you wave…”
These words are etched in the mind of every child who graduated from Fairyland School during the 1980s and ’90s. In those days, when teachers had time to teach the “soft skills” (like getting along with others, self-esteem, and the confidence to perform in front of a group), the emphasis on memorizing patriotic songs and “recitations” that I experienced in school as a child of the ’50s was already waning.
But at Fairyland School, along came Ginny Johnston, otherwise known as Mrs. J, who led an amazing program featuring those patriotic songs and recitations that became a tradition for every 4th, 5th, and 6th grader for all of those years. Over 150 children wearing blue jeans, white shirts, red bandannas and Uncle Sam hats marched onto the field singing “You’re a Grand Old Flag” over and over until all of the students were in place. Then, the historical foundation of the country began to unfold as the roots of our country were traced in song, dance and poetry.
Every child was given a chance to perform in front of a huge crowd that included proud parents and grandparents, along with the entire community, and even the neighborhood dogs. This extravaganza lasted over two hours, and the skits were the same year after year, but no one ever got bored. Instead, parents and children looked forward to the next year when it would be their turn to sing a solo or participate in the skit that was reserved for the next grade level.
More importantly, this program allowed kids to catch the spirit of patriotism. Patriotism (love for country) is one of those emotions that is caught rather than taught and is more easily spread in a group than individually. I regret that schools can no longer afford the time to offer our children the opportunity to catch this patriotic spirit through extravaganzas like Mrs. J lead at Fairyland School for all of those years.
In these days of teacher effectiveness being measured by test scores and being sure that teaching time is uninterrupted by the “extras,” patriotic school programs are few and far between. As a teacher and the parent of a child who participated in the program, I am thrilled that my children had that experience to have pride in our country that comes from programs like this. As an educator, I can make a lot of arguments for the value of this type of program including the development of “soft skills,” the memorization skills, and the historical connections children were able to make.
As a nation, we constantly need to catch this patriotic spirit and during this July 4th weekend is a great time to make this happen for our children. Creative Discovery Museum will be celebrating its annual Red, White, and Blue Day on Monday, July 4 from noon to 4 p.m.. In the midst of the traditional picnic type celebrations, take a couple of hours and come to the Museum for activities that remind us that July 4th is more than picnics and outdoor activities – it is America’s birthday. In the absence of school programs like the one lead by Mrs. J, Red, White and Blue Day will allow us all to catch that patriotic spirit. For more information, visit our website at cdmfun.org.