Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December Holiday Decorating in a Public School

Tree of Peace & Love
I work in southern Louisiana where many people working in public schools don't understand the separation of church and state. Thirty years ago I remember being horrified when the principal read a Christian prayer over the intercom right before the holidays. I didn't say anything because I was young and was not going to antagonize my principal, but I did not think that it was appropriate. Many of the public schools where I have worked have had Christmas trees gracing the halls. Those were usually decorated with ornaments created by the students. The halls of many of these schools had other Christmas style decorations, too.


I would compensate by bringing in a menorah for the library. I would also have dreidels available with instructions on how to play. The students loved playing the game even if they didn't win any chocolate.

The librarian in this library (not mine) found a way to make an inclusive holiday display 
Finally, I decided that having a few Chanukah symbols didn't really compensate, and I never brought anything in representing Kwanzaa. There are a significant number of Islamic children at my school now, and there is nothing comparable for them during the December holiday season that I know of.


Still, I like the idea of having some sort of decoration to mark the season since everyone celebrates the new year. A friend of mine brings a small artificial tree into her high school library. She provides various colors of chenille stems. She asks the students to decorate the tree with peace or love symbols. Okay, that would be a way to make the holiday season inclusive. For a couple of years, I have wanted to do something similar, but I didn't want to buy a tree, nor did I really have space for it in my library. 

This is how the process began

I had an idea light bulb go off when I created a make-shift bulletin board on a wall using post-it notes. I realized that I could use post-its for my holiday decorating. On the Friday before Thanksgiving, I put a sign in post-its on  a wall saying: A Tree of Peace & Love. The students would use Sharpie pens to design a peace or love symbol on one square of a green post-it note. With these designs, the students would build a paper tree. 


Students start adding their symbols

One of the eighth graders who practices Islam at home asked what I was making. I explained to her that it was a tree of peace and love for the holidays, and then I asked her if she thought that would offend anyone. She didn't answer me right away and after some thought finally said that she really liked the idea. She believes that so many Muslims get a bad rap because of ISIS and this would be a way to include everyone in the decorating. I was thrilled to hear that from her. 


I am excited to share my students' creations with you. As you can see, there is definitely a way to get creative even on a piece of paper that is only three inches by three inches.

The finished product
Happy Holidays (no matter what you celebrate) 
and 
Season's Readings! 

6 comments:

  1. There is a holiday in December for 2015 -- the Prophet's Birthday or Milad un Nabi.

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    1. Thanks for the info, but is this holiday this time of year every year? Is it a major holiday?

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  2. I love the concept, I love the student contributions, I love the end result. It is a beautiful tree made with hands that believe in peace and love. Thank you for sharing :).

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    1. Thanks for reading and acknowledging the importance of how we show what we do to celebrate the holidays.

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  3. This is awesome and I'm the one who posted that book display all those years ago :-)

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    1. I think that is so cool that you found your picture posted here. I downloaded the picture from Photos for Class--you can see the attribution in tiny print at the bottom of the pic. I had no clue what kind of library it came from or how old the pic was. Glad to hear from you!

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