When June comes around and with it the last day of school, my kindergarten class celebrates with a Fly Away Ceremony. I didn’t make this ceremony up. It was shared with me by a former colleague who went on to take a first grade class at a Waldorf School in Colorado. She shared the general outline and the song they used. I have since used it every year in my position at Sparrow Program.
We have the two kindergarten classes sit on sheets “nests” in the grass, each with their own teacher and assistant teacher. The parents sit in a big circle beginning and ending on either side of the two classes. In the middle is a lovely wooden bridge made by a parent a few years ago, and decorated with lovely flowers. At the other end of the bridge is a sheet awaiting the new first grade class. Sometimes we have the new teacher greet them, but if they are unable to attend, our administrator greets them.
“What do little birdies say,
When they wake at break of day?
Mother, may I fly away
Father, may I fly away?
___________ won’t wait any longer,
For (her) his wings have grown much stronger.
(S)he will leave (her) his nest today.
Spread your wings and fly away.”
(Repeat for each child going to 1st)
We give them a feather necklace symbolizing their wings. The administrator or new teacher takes them on a tour through their old kindergarten PlayGarden to see the first grade classroom.
We still have all of the Transitional Kindergarten children in our “nests” and so
“You may stay a little longer,
‘Til your wings have grown much stronger.
In the Hummingbird nest you’ll stay.
In the Fairy-wren nest you’ll stay.”
(Say to the whole group still in the nest until all children have been acknowledged.)
*Our classrooms all have bird names, so Hummingbird and Fairy-Wren are our kindergarten classes.
We give each child a necklace with a nest with little felted eggs in it. This symbolizes their staying in the nest. It is so sweet when I see my Kindergarteners wear their nest to school at the end of their second year, right before they get their feather necklace. They’ve waited patiently and their excitement at “earning their wings” is palpable.
Then we have the whole community circle up and we appreciate the ending of one leg of their (the parents) journey and the approaching next leg. We end the whole ceremony by gathering around a potluck feast and take time just enjoying everyone’s company. Our administrator, or the new
teacher, brings the new first grade class back to join us.
So, this year, I lay in bed and asked for just the right story to come to me to share with my class on our last day together. This is what came to me, and my students were so quiet and so sweet with big eyes and wide smiles as I told it.
(Painting by Sue Burdick, my mom…if only the quality was better, the details are exquisite.)
Old Oak Tree
A story to use before a Fly Away Ceremony
By Helga Roe Conklin
Once there was, and still there is, a grand Old Oak Tree residing on the top of a grassy hill. She looked out over the valley covered in pine trees and younger oak trees, with a little creek winding its way through the bottom of the valley. Old Oak Tree loved her hill and her view. She spent her time enjoying the passing of the seasons. Basking in the radiating heat of the summer sun, seeing the grass turn a golden brown. Feeling the autumn winds come blowing in, pulling and pushing her brown leaves to the ground, carpeting her roots below. Waking up in winter to the frost covered grass, grateful the blanket of leaves kept her roots warm. Then spring would arrive, announced by the first yellow flowers peaking out between shoots of baby green grass.
Old Oak Tree thrilled in keeping an eye on her visitors, too as the seasons turned. Young Fawn would wander into her shade in the summer heat, napping in the comfort of her larger roots, safe under the canopy of her widespread branches. Frisky Squirrel would leap and twirl along her branches, chattering away as he collected acorns, stashing them in his cozy underground burrow at her feet. How she laughed, shaking her branches gently, as his delicate feet tickled her bark. Then winter would bring few visitors, most sleeping in mounds of fur and feather, keeping warm and dry until spring arrived. One visitor in particular would come in early winter, scratching his thick bear hide against her rough bark coat before lumbering off to find his own safe space to sleep. Before she knew it, spring would come around again. Velvet furred bunnies would nibble new green shoots of grass, ears twitching, listening for the whoosh of hawk’s hunting wings. Old Oak Tree always called the bunnies to take cover under her branches.
Then the baby birds would arrive. Mother and Father bird had spent many long hours building just the right nest in Old Oak Tree’s branches, preparing for the arrival of their babies. Old Oak Tree loved to hear the tiny chirps of the newborns asking for food. Before she knew it, again the seasons had turned, summer was approaching once more, and the sounds of laughter from summer fun could be heard coming over the horizon. The birds that had grown ready would spread their wings and fly away and Old Oak Tree was sad for a moment. But only a moment, for she was so very proud of the baby birds growing big and strong, heading off on their own life’s adventure. There were always the little birds that needed more time, requiring more care, and so would stay in their nest a little longer. The seasons went on turning, Old Oak Tree’s visitors would come and go, and she was happy.
“If nothing has changed, it’s still the same.”
(I’m not actually telling the story at the ceremony like this picture seems to imply,
but I suppose a teacher could if they wanted to.)