London students ‘make their marks’ with dots

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This image of a young person looking to a star as they follow their life vision is made up of paper dots on which London Elementary students wrote how they plan to make their marks on the world. The artwork hangs in the school cafeteria.

(Posted Jan. 5, 2016)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Make your mark and see where it takes you.

Students at London Elementary are embracing this simple yet powerful message as part of Dot Day, an international movement that celebrates creativity, courage and collaboration.

Dot Day is inspired by “The Dot,” a book by Peter H. Reynolds featuring a student who, at first, doesn’t trust in her artistic abilities. A caring teacher challenges the student to make her mark, starting simply by drawing a dot on a piece of paper. From there, the student launches into a journey of self-discovery and confidence, which she then shares with other students.

One student’s aspiration

Mark Stafford, a fourth-grade teacher at London Elementary, first introduced his classroom to Dot Day in 2015. He expanded its reach this past fall to all of the school’s fourth-grade classrooms.

On Sept. 14, students took part in art projects using pointillism, learned about Braille, dressed up as dots, watched as a drone spelled out words using dots, and listened as city officials, emergency responders, and school leaders read books with inspirational messages.

The highlight of the day was a project in which each student wrote a note on a paper dot, stating briefly how they would like to make their mark on the world. Laila McQuirt vowed to be kind to everybody. Wyatt Spangler wrote about picking up trash on the school grounds. Kayden Warnock wants to beautify the playground. Other students wrote about starting a cooking class, showing effort, making books, reading to younger students, preventing bullying, and believing in themselves and others.

“I want to use my creativity and my mind to create something that is the best in my life I’ve ever done,” Brian Akers said.

The students’ dots were numbered, corresponding with spots on two giant pieces of poster board. As students placed their finished dots on the board, an image started to take shape. The finished product mimicked an illustration from another one of Reynolds’ books, “The North Star,” which encourages individuals to follow their own visions. The giant piece of artwork now hangs high on the wall in London Elementary’s cafeteria.

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
(From left) London Elementary fourth-graders Laila McQuirt, Kayden Warnock, Brian Akers and Wyatt Spangler display a copy of “The Dot,” a book by Peter H. Reynolds that inspired Dot Day.

The lessons to be learned from these activities, Stafford said, are many.

“Every single person can make a dot. You just need to try and then see where it takes you,” he said. “And we are better as our dots come together. I tell my students that it takes all of us in this classroom to make it something magical.”

For Stafford’s students, Dot Day didn’t begin and end with the Sept. 14 celebration. They have since completed several miniature Dot Day projects. In December, they filled dots with answers to questions like “What was the best part of 2016?” and “How will you make the school better?” Those dots became ornaments on a Christmas tree.

“The kids are still pretty excited about Dot Day, and that’s a win,” said Stafford, who hopes to see Dot Day activities spread to other grades at London Elementary.

To learn more about International Dot Day and to see how other students and teachers around the globe celebrate, go to www.thedotclub.org.

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