I have written about Family Night each year at Assets because the event is so extraordinary that I always feel compelled to talk about it and share it with others. I have seen few events, at any school, that rival Family Night’s ability to celebrate student creativity and brilliance. My favorite part of the evening is that all students have at least one piece of artwork displayed. If you were on campus, you saw how the walls transform into a breathtaking art gallery. It’s beautiful. Core to its beauty is knowing that it’s a constellation of every single student’s imagination, effort and expression displayed at one time.
Truth be told, it’s difficult to capture in words how and why this evening is so special. You have to see the excitement that the children have when they’re dragging their parents and siblings down the hall to find their artwork. And the smiles and pride on their face when they take a picture next to their artwork. For middle schoolers, it’s often the parents who are beaming with pride, as they see their child presenting in front of other students and adults. This is a wonderful moment because it’s often a side of the child that parents don’t see as much in the familiar confines of their home.
The best way I can explain the beauty of the art and the evening is to share what the progressive educator, John Dewey, wrote in, “Time and Individuality.”
Art is not the possession of the few who are recognized writers, painters, musicians; it is the authentic expression of any and all individuality. Those who have the gift of creative expression in unusually large measure disclose the meaning of the individuality of others to those others. In participating in the work of art, they become artists in their activity. They learn to know and honor individuality in whatever form it appears. The fountains of creative activity are discovered and released. The free individuality which is the source of art is also the final source of creative development in time.
The brilliance and free individuality of our students were on fine display Wednesday night.
The evening kicked off with some of our 5th and 6th graders performing “E Ho’omau Ka Ha O Ka Hawai’i,” which reminds us that our responsibility to is to be ourselves. We were then treated to students on ukulele singing “Someone to Lava.” From there, families were able to visit the Book Fair (Clifford the Big Red Dog even made a guest appearance), walk around the Art Show, and either watch or participate in improv performances.
We ended the evening with the Middle School Project-Based Learning (PBL) Expo. At the beginning of the year, middle school students chose an essential question that they want to explore for the year. The Expo is their capstone, where the public serves as an authentic audience for their demonstrations of learning. This year, we had students explore topics related to: increasing reading among students and faculty, school gardens, community service, the effect of exercise on attention, ocean preservation, reusing recycled materials, traditional Hawaiian harvesting practices, community building through the arts, community building through fashion, and engineering. If you were able to attend, you got the chance to see fantastic student-created videos of their year, games, simulations, design challenges, food, and art. There are too many highlights to include all, but some of the ones I won’t soon forget are “Book It!” organizing a book drive and exchange that collected hundreds of books. The “Style Aisle” organized a fashion show that students loved, as well as a clothing exchange that students (who grow out of sizes so quickly), parents and faculty all benefited from. The “Ocean Saving Adventure” group wrote advocacy letters to Senator Schatz, and received a response. I loved seeing Owen and Grant from Ocean Saving Adventures be such good teachers with two 3rd graders who were excited to learn more about marine life conservation. I can’t wait to read the schoolwide literary magazine that “Say What?” created. The “Helping Hands” group received $1,000 for their work with beach clean-up and decided to use some of those funds to help add toys and play materials to our Munchkin Playground. And of course, a nostalgic favorite of mine was the “Thinkers and Tinkers,” who used computer programming to create a Nintendo emulator that had several classic Nintendo games. Seeing everyone play games like Tetris, Contra, Zelda and Super Mario Brothers 3 had my childhood rushing back to me.
Mahalo to Rachael Cook for coordinating our Book Fair, and the many parent volunteers who helped set it up, run it during the day and pack it away on Thursday. Mahalo to Ms. Christin for all the work she puts into setting up the Art Show. Mahalo to all the teachers who prepared our students for their performances. And mahalo to Chef Steve for providing us with a camp out-themed dinner menu to match the book fair’s theme.
Please enjoy the following photos from the evening:
About the Author
Ryan Masa is the K-8 Principal at Assets School in Honolulu, Hawaii
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