In today’s AYP-focused school culture, it might be hard to see students as more than just data sets and test scores.
In an effort to remind educators, students, and the world about just how important it is to celebrate each individual student’s creativity and passion, a number of organizations are teaming up Sept. 15 to celebrate International Dot Day.
Dot Day was launched on Sept. 15, 2009, by teacher Terry Shay when he introduced his classroom to Peter H. Reynolds’ book The Dot (Shay chose Sept. 15 because the original publishing date of The Dot is Sept. 15, 2003). The Dot tells the story of a teacher who reaches a reluctant student in a creative way.
The teacher dares a doubting student to trust in her own abilities by being brave enough to “make her mark.” What begins with a small dot on a piece of paper becomes a breakthrough in confidence and courage, igniting a journey of self-discovery and sharing.
And what began in a single classroom in a school in Iowa in 2009 has now become International Dot Day, with about 17,500 participants last year. For this year’s Dot Day, there are more than half a million people in all 50 states and across six continents registered to participate.
“The explosion in awareness of Dot Day and the overwhelming positive response is both humbling and exciting,” said Angela Maiers, educator, author, consultant, and social media guru. “And it’s such an opportunity not only to engage in a creative activity but to reflect for a moment on the power and potential that creativity has in all we do.”
One of the main themes of International Dot Day is bringing people together in cooperation and friendship.
Though most classrooms choose to read The Dot to their students, many classroom then create collaborative projects based on the book’s message.
Last year, teachers Shannon Miller and John Schumacher each celebrated with their students in separate states, then collaborated to share their Dot Day videos, creating “Two Libraries, One Voice Dot Day Celebration” using the video maker at Animoto:
Another teacher, Richard Colosi, got creative with his classroom and Dot Day and created this video:
And here’s a video showing what students in Portugal accomplished:
This year, “folks are celebrating Dot Day as part of math, science, history, and writing classes,” said Maiers. “They are celebrating as part of art classes and school assemblies. An entire community is celebrating with a town-wide challenge to ‘Spot the Dot.’ There’s a hospital in Vietnam that is going to celebrate by providing young patients with art supplies to create their own dots. The possibilities are endless. And Skype is being integrated in all sorts of ways. Some classrooms are doing a joint reading of the book. Others are using the book as a platform for student-to-student conversations and collaborative projects.”
To help educators connect, Skype is helping to host Dot Day with Skype in the Classroom. Maiers said the beauty of Dot Day is that there is no set program or prescribed activity, “there is simply an invitation: Celebrate creativity, courage, and confidence and all that it can bring to what you do. That’s it. What happens on Dot Day, what form each celebration takes, is entirely up to the people involved.”
Organizers also are hoping to expand Dot Day by offering new resources and content. For example, a new website and a cache of new, free resources include an educator’s handbook and Dot Day posters in multiple languages.
Perhaps one of the most significant new developments this year is a deliberate effort to reach out to as many people as possible, letting them know about Dot Day and about the opportunity that opening doors to creativity can bring to everyone.
“It’s so important that people know they have the potential to make a mark, and to make a mark that matters,” explained Maiers. “We can see by the soaring number of participants that the message of International Dot Day resonates—and that it is inspiring people all over the world to take time to celebrate courage, creativity, and the confidence that emerges when someone tells you that the mark you make is valuable and meaningful.”
“I’ve been a fan of Peter’s work for many, many years,” she explained. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that he has been a constant source of inspiration in my teaching and learning life—not only as an author/artist but as an advocate for creativity and its role in fostering the kind of education that every child and teacher deserves to know and experience.”
Maiers added that the story of The Dot is simple, but packs a “real punch,” highlighting important ideas about what people can bring to the world and to each other:
“Each and every person, the story tells us, has the ability to make a mark; and equally important, every mark has value, worth framing in ‘swirly gold.’ Every person matters, and what every person chooses to do matters. Every one of us has talents, skills, and genius inside of us. The key is choosing to use them. Reynolds’ story shows how the simple act of sharing the mark you make can inspire others to also make a mark.”
She said she loves how the story shows how an invitation, and a little encouragement, can provide someone else with the bravery to make a mark and see where it leads.
Though Dot Day is celebrated only once a year, organizers say that every day is a good day to celebrate creativity in the classroom and all it unleashes for students and teachers.
“So much of education today is about scope and sequence and content and tests,” said Maiers, “and yet, education is a uniquely human enterprise. In a fast-paced world that calls upon students to know more and know it sooner, and calls upon teachers to teach more and teach it faster, it’s important to step back and remember that students and teachers are people—and that teaching and learning is about connections between students and teachers. When we as educators tell a student that he or she matters, that his or her ideas have value, that his or her curiosity and creativity help build knowledge, we open doors we never knew existed. Students who know they matter become more engaged and committed to their own learning. And let’s face it, life-long success in a world economy and global society depends on each person’s ability to be creative in how they approach challenges, communicate with others, and get things done.”
To register for the event, click here.
To learn more about Dot Day and its resources, click here.
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