EXPANDING LEARNING OES students get creative on last day of school

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

It was hard to find a quite spot in the hallways of Okoboji Elementary on Tuesday, May 28. Mud painting, tie dying, science projects and yoga were just a few of the activities students participated in during the first-ever "Date to Create" at the school.

The fun-filled day was the perfect way to close out the school year, according to OES principal Rob Olsen.

"(It) started with our school's emphasis on creativity and encouraging kids to be themselves and to take risks and to really be an individual," he said. "We wanted to end the year with something that put our whole year together, and we thought our 'Date to Create' was a great way to do that in terms of creativity."

Tricky winter weather extended the school calendar past Memorial Day. Olsen used the opportunity to have a year-long creative transition come full-circle. Together, students and faculty members mixed education with creativity with a hand's on approach.

"We had the kids doing cooking, movement, painting, creativity with technology, acting in skits," Olsen said. "We had kids doing doing about everything you could possibly create in one day. We wanted our kids to create all day long."

Faculty members invited parents and grandparents to help coordinate some of the activities as well.

"I was really excited as an art teacher, it's kind of the ultimate compliment to be in a school that has so much value for being creative," said Leia Krueger, OES art teacher. "Right out of the gate I had a lot of ideas."

Along the hallway outside the art room, giant murals of trees line each wall. Students in Krueger's class decorated a paper hand and placed it on the branches. All grades of OES now have their hands on the walls.

"There were about 4-5 of us on the planning committee and we just asked all the teachers for ideas of what they wanted to do," Olsen said. "We loaded up all the ideas on to a Google Doc and other people could add to them if they wanted to be a part of it. We chose activities that were of a good variety."

Creative Movement was held in the gym, with activities such as yoga, cup stacking and volleyball. Creative science was just down the hall, where kids made super balls or "gak" out of corn starch, Borax, glue and hot water. They also made balloon rockets and raced against each other.

In the computer lab, children navigated through interactive computer programs. The same kids decorated cookies with hidden messages in the lunchroom. In the basement, students played "backstabbers" -- a game of tag with clothes pins that taught students about the dangers of online bullying.

When students ventured into the courtyard and onto the playground they found mud and sidewalk painting. The sidewalk paint was created out of items the kids could find inside their home.

They also learned a new and innovative way to tie dye involving permanent markers, rubbing alcohol and plastic cups. In addition, cardboard robots were constructed just around the corner to teach the value of recycling.

"We wanted to touch on all the areas of creativity," Krueger said. "Art, technology, kids being active, being in nature, we wanted to have the full scale of what being creative can actually mean."

The whole day was separated into three different sessions, morning, lunch and afternoon. Olsen noticed how the kids seemed to embrace the entire concept of the day.

"They just loved it. I think it's a great day for students to also do things in small groups and teach kids to accept others ideas," Olsen said. "The biggest benefit I wanted, was again, for the kids to be themselves and think differently and create things that are their own originals."

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