Children are not computers whose hard drives need to be filled with data. They are people who traverse complex passages of growth, but on their own timetable in their own ways. Tradition serves as a scaffold for them to rise safely to adulthood.
Children love tradition that retains its magic. As they grow year by year, participating in traditions from an increasingly mature perspective, they become vocal advocates for tradition and the vessels that preserve it. Children love the safety of rich tradition. It is constantly unpredictable as well as magical, and they participate with enthusiasm, safe from the cynical intrusions of the world that sentimentalizes childhood, but does not truly understand or value it.
Once each week, at the beginning of the day, the Lower School students and faculty, and, separately, the Upper School students and faculty, gather to share news and issues of interest to the whole community. In addition, there are special assembly times scheduled each week for the Lower School and for the Upper School. Monthly Declamations take place at these times, as well as plays and musical performances. Visitors to the School may be invited to share their talents or knowledge with the children. Parents are welcome at all assemblies. Special assemblies appear on the monthly calendars sent home in Weekly Bulletin.
The weekly School Service is held in St. Peter’s Church for students in First Grade through Eighth Grade and faculty. Our Eighth Grade and Head of School usually lead the service. Visiting clergy of different faiths participate. Each leader brings a distinct, positive moral message to the children. Parents are always welcome at School Service.
Beginning in First Grade, each child at St. Peter’s is expected to choose, memorize, and recite poetry on a regular basis. This highly cherished tradition at St. Peter’s School has three major goals:
- Cultivate a genuine love and understanding of poetry.
- Train the minds of children in the skill of memorization.
- Develop the ability to speak effectively in front of an audience with poise and confidence.
Parents are encouraged to support their children through the choosing, preparation, and actual presentation of the poems at Declamation. In the Lower School, all children will have a turn declaiming, but it is possible that not all Upper School students will declaim at an assembly in a given year.
To foster cooperative spirit and healthy athletic participation and competition throughout the School, the students are divided into two teams – the Garnets and the Greys. On Color Day in the fall, the children in First Grade and the new students receive their team membership. Siblings automatically belong to the same team. Color Day is the beginning of the athletic score-keeping for various events throughout the year. The score-keeping culminates with Field Day and the presentation of the silver bowl to the winning team at graduation.
The school yard and the West Lawn become a festival ground, where students and parents play games, enjoy delectable harvest foods and buy teacher treats.
All Soul’s Day
On November 2nd, we observe All Soul’s Day by having all the children link hands to form a human chain that winds its way around the schoolyard, all the while singing an old English song, “Souling.” Afterwards the children receive “soul cakes” (gingersnaps).
Thanksgiving Celebration – Grandparents’ & Special Friends’ Day
At assemblies throughout the year and at Thanksgiving, the children bring in foodstuffs to share with needy families in the city through the St. Peter’s Church Food Cupboard.
On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, children, faculty, parents, grandparents, relatives, or a special friend attend School Service and a charming program of music and dance. Dismissal for all students is at noon.
Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa
St. Peter’s School children celebrate the holidays by putting on plays, singing holiday songs, reciting poetry and sharing various Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa traditions with one another. It is a joyous time at School when parents share the holiday spirit with their children and friends.
During the month of December, the children bring in gifts for needy children and place in a decorated box in the parlor. Just before our holiday vacation, the Upper School children then take these gifts to a social service agency for distribution.
Each year the Fourth Grade presents its own version of a play, which relates the story of Hanukkah to the student body. It explains the history of this holiday and symbols which are used to represent Hanukkah.
Bible Verse Assembly
Classes from the Kindergarten through Eighth Grade learn verses of the Nativity story from The Gospel of Luke. Each class has its special verses so that as a child comes to Eighth Grade, he or she knows by heart the entire story.
Tree Decorating Assembly
The children make decorations for the tree in the Alumni Theater. At the Tree Decorating Assembly, the children gather around the tree and come up by class to hang their ornaments and sing carols.
During the month of December, the children bring in gifts for needy children and place them under the parlor tree. Just before our holiday vacation, the Upper School children then take these gifts to a social service agency for distribution.
Celebration of Light
Students from First Grade through Eighth Grade celebrate the holiday season with songs and readings from diverse sources. Performed on an evening the week prior to vacation, the Celebration of Light is a St. Peter’s tradition, a chance for families, current and past, to meet and celebrate the seasons significance and beauty.
Early Childhood Division Holiday Celebration
Students in Preschool, Prekindergarten and Kindergarten celebrate the holiday season with a special performance held during the school day prior to vacation.
Food Cupboard is a weekly event during the school year. Grades 4 and 7, in cooperation with St. Peter’s Church, sort and bag canned goods which the church distributes to the needy on Saturday mornings.
This is a silent and themed auction. It is St. Peter’s largest fundraiser, a wonderful night of great entertainment and support of the school.
Eighth Grade Play
The Eighth Grade performs a play based on their year long study of one of four literary greats – Austen, Twain, Dickens and Shakespeare.
Branches of May
The Branches of May Celebration is held the first school day in May, the day we welcome the beginning of May and the awakening of the earth for spring planting. The children all hold hands as they process through the School into the schoolyard where the Eighth Grade students present the branches of May to faculty and staff.
Held in the beginning of May to welcome spring, May Day offers an opportunity for the entire school family to get together for dances around the May Poles on the schoolyard. Family picnics follow in the graveyard. With the girls dressed in colorful dresses and the boys in summer whites, the atmosphere is one of celebration and festivity.
Field Day is the final major sporting event of the year. Children in First through Eighth Grade take part in spirited competition: tug-of-war, carry-the-colors, sprints, and relays. Individual and team scores are tallied and determine the awarding of the silver bowl to Garnets or Greys at graduation. In sports class, the children receive awards for individual Field Day events.
This assembly is for First through Eighth Grade and takes place in June prior to graduation. It is the time when faculty, at their discretion, present academic awards to our Eighth Graders and other Upper School students. Parents are invited to attend. The Citizenship Awards are presented at Graduation.
All children in First through Eighth Grade attend graduation, for it is a ceremony celebrating not only the Eighth Grade as they move on to secondary schools, but also First through Seventh Grade as they move on to their next year. Graduation is a formal occasion held in St. Peter’s Church and celebrated with music, pomp, and circumstance. The School invites all of its families and friends to this lovely evening.
The Final Assembly is held on the last day of the school year for First through Eighth Grade. This is a time to acknowledge the accomplishments of many children for many reasons. Children will receive awards and prizes for outstanding achievement in such activities as handwriting, academics, and stewardship. Songs are sung and good-byes are said. It is a simple, heartwarming conclusion to a school year, one that many parents enjoy attending.