Using the alphabet as countdown to summer

The kids of Mountain View Elementary School are learning the ABCs…of fun.

With summer looming, students are displaying a characteristic surge in unfocused energy. Meanwhile, with state testing over, teachers have a bit more time for non-essential but memorable activities.

With this in mind, the staff of Mountain View has created an alphabetical countdown to the last day of school, a tradition now in its fourth year. Each of the end-of-the-year “A-Z Days” is designated by a letter and features an associated activity.

The countdown began with “A” on May 14, with kids flying paper airplanes during the last 15 minutes of school, and will conclude on June 14 with a lesson in the Latin dance-inspired fitness craze Zumba.

Fourth grade teacher Debbie Barnes appreciates the way A-Z Days let teachers get back to the enjoyable moments common before state standards began to dominate curriculum. As far as she’s concerned, the countdown couldn’t come at a better time.

“They’re so checked out the last couple of weeks,” she says of her students. “They’re like, ‘We have homework?’”

In the past few weeks, students have tossed beach balls around, expressed their inner loon during “Crazy Dress Day” and cooled down with ice cream. In some cases, the countdown lets teachers sneak in some sound education for students burnt out by the rigors of the school year.

On May 31, children got to munch while learning during “M&M Math Day.” And in the days leading up to May 18, students engaged in creative problem- solving while constructing capsules to cushion the fall of a raw egg. Then, on “Egg Drop Day,” teachers tested students’ inventions by climbing onto the roof and dropping the variously cradled eggs.

In Room 26 at Mountain View on Monday, June 4, students celebrated the day designated by the letter “O” with an origami-folding activity.

Ms. Barnes brought books on the Japanese paper-folding art to class, and students were helped by classmate Isabel Ganda, who has been folding flapping birds, candy boxes and bunnies since her parents bought her a book on origami last year.

“It’s really fun to do it,” she said.

Folding origami takes a certain amount of precision, but Garrett Cox, who fashioned a flower, was up to the challenge.

“The trick is to make sure you take time, line up the edges of the paper and make nice creases,” he explained. 

Julian Matus enjoyed himself while taking time on his origami creations because “art is relaxing.” A bit of creative downtime was just what the doctor ordered, because state testing had been “really stressful.”

“I just feel more relaxed and comfortable choosing my answers,” he said of post-testing schoolwork.

Julian was looking forward to the rest of the alphabetical activities on tap during the coming 2 weeks, especially the next day’s event: “I’m crazy about pajama day.”

Time for alphabetically-ordered pleasures like watching a video and eating watermelon and yes, origami, is a gift for students. In the spirit of giving back, Sebastian Ibarra took the opportunity to make a gift for a friend, a folded paper cat of his own design.

“My neighbor has a cat and it just died, so I made it for her,” he said.

He has enjoyed counting down the school days, especially looking forward to June 14. Along with the end of the school year, Sebastian notes the day will mark his birthday and the reopening of Disneyland’s Matterhorn, which has been closed for refurbishment since January. Talk about a red-letter day!

As that momentous date nears, the last days of school are speeding by in a blur and with more than a touch of delight…thanks to A-Z Days.

“I think it’s fun,” said Shalena Sutphen. “It’s nice for everyone to enjoy.”

—Sarah Torribio



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