SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Staff at Hawthorne Elementary in Sioux Falls is using the first few weeks of school to make sure students feel welcome. From activities to a special mask project, the school is teaming up with members of the community to stress the theme of “belonging.”
It’s a special tradition at Hawthorne each year.
“Every year we welcome our kindergartners into our building and into the circle of courage by showing that belonging piece where we have our fifth graders create a tunnel for them,” Jones said.
The kindergartners build that same tunnel for fifth graders at the end of the year. Principal Stephanie Jones says it brings everyone together.
“We have an extremely diverse population of kids and families. A lot of different needs and a lot of different cultural aspects that we have to bring together and fit together. So that everybody feels that they belong no matter what their beliefs are and their culture is,” Jones said.
With the pandemic and masks being expected this year, art teacher Kathy Dang came up with a project to make them more inviting to kids.
“Just a way to kind of think about how can students wear masks and incorporate our theme of ‘ubuntu’ and belonging. We’re making sure to teach the kids that when we wear our masks at school, we can take care of each other and keep each other safe,” Kathy said.
Last Stop CD Shop helped raise $1,000 for the project and Kathy rounded up some volunteers to sew creative masks for every staff member and student. Instructional Coach Aaron Dang is grateful for the outside support.
“We really just want to keep on stressing the fact that we believe that communities stepping up for schools is the right thing to do. Schools need the community to be their advocates,” Aaron said.
“With such strange circumstances of the year, I feel really lucky to be here and be able to do a project that can make our kids and staff feel welcome and safe. It’s been a really good start to the school year,” Kathy said.
Hawthorne’s principal says the school has a very mobile population meaning they receive new students every day. That’s why they spend time on the theme of “belonging” all year long.