Celebrating Self-Discovery

As the regular school year draws to a close, many extracurricular programs also pause for the summer. Teachers and leaders plan celebrations to mark all that children have learned. But what if we also used these moments to encourage ongoing self-discovery during the break?

Part of the fun of summertime for kids is the shift away from formal, highly structured learning environments to more informal and/or interest-based programming. Children can just hang out or pursue their passions. Some may have to do remedial work or opt into academic prep courses, but these generally occupy just a fraction of their time. So why not signal that the summer is an opportunity to discover more about themselves as you wrap up your academic year offerings?

Education coach Kathy Collier offers several ideas for promoting identity and joy using popular music, art and poetry. Here are some adapted versions of activities she has done with elementary age children:

What Else Can I Do? In this song from the movie Encanto, Isa delights in her ability to create as Mirabel celebrates with her. The girls recognize that there’s a difference between limiting your creativity to what is perfect or expected by others and exploring the endless possibilities of your imagination. Play the song for children and invite those who know it to sing along. Explore together the title question (What else can I do?) as well as other queries posed by Isa: What could I do if I just knew it didn’t need to be perfect? How far can I rise? End your conversation reflecting on this question from the song: What can you do when you are deeply, madly, truly in the moment? Encourage children to keep exploring these questions throughout the summer.

What Lifts You? Artist Kelsey Montague has created murals of wings on walls all around the U.S. and the world as part of her What Lifts You? campaign. Share some images of her wings (see Related Resources) and invite children to draw their own set, using paper and markers, paints and poster board, or an e-drawing program. Encourage them to include words, shapes, and images in their wings that represent people and things that lift them. Suggest that they continue working on their wing drawings throughout the summer as they discover new ways they are supported.

Allow Me to Introduce Myself. In his hip-hop poem, Allow Me to Introduce Myself, Charles R. Smith Jr. lists the various names people give him because of his basketball skills. Read or play a recording of the poem and ask children: What names do people call you to affirm your identity? Invite them to use Smith’s poem as a model and write their own hip-hop statement celebrating how others recognize their talents. Or create a group hip hop poem that celebrates the gifts and abilities of all the children and then perform it for parents and caregivers. Encourage children to keep their own list of affirming names and add to it over the summer.

Photo credit: https://www.tinkerandcompany.com/tinkerwingsrva

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