About 80 fifth graders joined the Elk Meadow tradition of wearing their “best dress” as they had a chance to practice their manners at the annual Spring Tea.
Started by teacher Sandy King, who has held the event for more than 20 years at other schools where she taught, preparations for Spring Tea began weeks before as students polish their manners: sitting up straight and practicing how to have a polite conversation with eye contact, to using napkins or the correct silverware.
“We read books, make posters, have the boys hold the doors for lunch and recess and practice asking for their reservations for a table,” fifth-grade teacher Wendi Bailey said. “It’s something they all might not want to admit, but they look forward to it — and it changes the way they act, the way they eat and how they treat one another. I have seen a teacher come to a door with her arms full and students come ask if they can hold the door open for her.”
At the year-round school, the last Spring Tea to accommodate the students who were on track was May 1. Parents came an hour early to set up the tea, including creating flower centerpieces, placing tablecloths on desks, decorating with twinkling lights and preparing cake or finger foods in the classrooms. Piano music filled Bailey’s classroom and small group pictures of students were taken.
“It’s a memorable experience for our fifth graders. It’s an experience that they’ll remember more than our reading and writing assignments,” she said.
It also ties into the school’s Leader in Me program that was developed by Sean Covey’s “Seven Habits of Happy Kids.” Bailey said it ties into Synergize, where students learn to get along with others.
Other traits include Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, Put First Things First, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood and Sharpen the Saw, where students learn the importance of eating right, exercise, sleep and spending time with family and friends.
“I hope and have seen students become better citizens of society, who are better able to make good choices, be problem-solvers and decide on things that will benefit all parties involved,” Principal Aaron Ichumura said about the program.
The Spring Tea is just one of the units where students gain hands-on experience in fifth grade. In the winter, they learned about the Revolutionary War and held a simulation where they experienced King George taxing the colonists.
In science, they also learn about chemical changes and reactions when they make homemade root beer and turn it into root beer floats.
“We do a lot of hands-on activities because we’ve learned that the students remember the lesson better and have a lot of fun while doing it. It makes their elementary school experiences memorable,” Bailey said.