If you were asked to select or create a quote that captures who you are and what you stand for, what would you choose? In the 6th Grade, our students are asked this very question.
During the first week of school, visitors will find 6th Graders scattered in the hallway and occupying every inch of classroom space. They are surrounded by mounds of fabric, sequins, borders, lettering, and volunteer parents armed and ready with glue guns. Busy at work, the students are crafting a fabric banner that broadcasts the quote of their choice. Students pour their hearts and souls into their banners, knowing that they will be proudly displayed all year in the Arts and Athletics Building. But the tradition does not stop there.
Throughout the year, when we gather for morning flag in the Arts and Athletics Building, each 6th Grader will eventually deliver his or her “Banner Talk.” This is their opportunity to share with the community why they selected that particular quote, some background on the quote, and inspirational advice that often includes personal experiences. They prove themselves to be not only the leaders of the Lower School, but also the best motivational speakers in town!
The “Banner Talks” started this year on Monday, September 10. Our first two 6th Graders spoke with poise, thoughtfulness, and depth. Sixth Grader Liam F. shared eloquently about his quote of choice: It always seems impossible until it’s done, by Nelson Mandela. In his talk, Liam referenced the struggles and perseverance of Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mohandas Gandhi. Then, Liam asked his peers, “Students, what have you done that seemed impossible, but when you worked hard to finish it, you were proud of yourself? Has anything seemed impossible to you? Think about riding a bike, skiing, or looking at a VERY long test. So my advice to you, as a student who has been in your shoes before, is to always believe in yourself and keep on trying.” What a powerful message to hear delivered from a student, to students.
Sixth Grader Claudia L. beautifully shared her Banner Talk as well, explaining to the school why she selected: Do not follow where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail, as her quote. She shared her own experience of zip lining in Costa Rica during a Spring Break trip with her family and the impact of the experience: “Before this trip, I never thought of doing something like that [zip lining]! After this experience, I decided to always go for what I truly wanted to do, including trying a new sport I had never done before.” She urged students to get out of their comfort zone and “consider going for the dare.” Such a valuable goal for all of us!
The history of 6th Grade Banners can be traced back to the Lower School’s start in September of 1995. Sixth Grade teacher Susan Hardisty had an inspirational quote board in her classroom where she displayed each student’s photo with his or her quote of choice on a star. Mixed in among the student contributions, Ms. Hardisty had additional quotes and photographs of famous mathematicians, scientists, historians, and global leaders (with an equal number of quotes from men and women). Another teacher loved the display so much, he suggested the students select their favorite quote and display it on a flag or banner. Once created, these inspirational banners were placed on the ceiling of the two 6th Grade classrooms for the duration of the year.
This is how the tradition continued for many years. Then, four years ago it was decided that the creativity and motivation of the banners should be shared with the entire school, and not just in the 6th Grade classrooms. Thus, banners are now displayed all year in the Arts and Athletics Building. The tradition was further enhanced with “Banner Talks,” the opportunity for each 6th Grader to deliver a speech about their banner to the entire community.
The banner tradition is a special part of the Lower School. As Susan Hardisty reflects, “Sixth Grade is the beginning of a time of many changes; the students are coming of age. For them, to soul search about what is important to them in life is the first step into an adult life of thoughtful self-evaluating and learning from missteps. I've had students come back to me and say that they still have their banners up in their rooms at home; this has always made me so happy.”
We have many more words of wisdom in store for us this year with upcoming “Banner Talks,” and we are all so proud of our 6th Grade visionaries!