14 June 2016

kindergarten to 5th grade; at last the graduation ceremony!

There were many proud parents, grandparents, friends and other family members on hand at the cafetorium (cafeteria by day, auditorium by night) to celebrate the conclusion of elementary school for these 5th graders (1st grade begins at age 6, so most of these will be 11).
     The weather outside was not overly hot, but the confined space soon warmed up the event. Things began with the procession of the 2 classrooms of 25 to 30 students each.

The program included a list of names, a few group photos from this year's field trips, and then the order of events for presenting awards.

order of events in the ceremony (click picture for full size)
Most awards had just a handful of the 50 or 60 kids to be recognized. But a few required 2 or even three rows to form at the front. As each name was read the the kid approached the Mistress of Ceremonies to collect a certificate, the audience gave their applause. At the end, one final applause for the entire group was given. The awards with many certificates were (a) safety patrol, and (g) Presidential Academic Excellence. In this last case only a few kids remained behind, passed by in the roll call; conspicuous not for being awarded, but the opposite, for lacking this award of their peers.
Safety Patrol Award (crossing guard) for serving 12 weeks or more in all weather

At the conclusion of the clapping and certificate presentations, the 5th graders filed off the stage and around the edges of the room in order to view the projected slideshow of the school that had just ended. Following that each kid was given a mini-This Is Your Life episode (a few slides: baby photo >grades 1 to 5 photos; one or two family event photos, and so on). Thanks to the emotive music, it was easy to feel caught in the rapid flow of time being presented and to realize how quickly the days have flown - sort of a digital mono no aware (Japanese aesthetic of transience and the nature in everything, quite apart from the way we frame things)

Holding a ceremony for those leaving behind the elementary school is not so old a custom as it is in Japan, for example, and it dates to 2000 or so in this small mid-Michigan town. For the middle school the practice perhaps began earlier. But awards and recognitions, along with a gown and hat with tassel belongs most historically to high school commencement ceremonies to launch a young person into the world; these days very commonly to higher education or further training, but not so frequently a few generations earlier, for example, in the 1940s or earlier.

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