On the last day of school each year at Open Fields School, the tradition is that families gather at 11 am for a picnic, followed by a quick award ceremony, followed by the briefest of graduation ceremonies (if there are 6th graders that year), followed by playing in the fields behind the school. And then school is out by 1 pm.
The favorite after-graduation game is called “Aquarian Gladiator” — a game that involves running across the field with paper cups full of ice cold water, trying to drench your friends, parents and teachers. This game is so special it’s rarely played on any other day of the school year, saved in reserve for the typically warm, sunny day that the last day of school deserves.
Unfortunately, this year, there were no 6th graders. And it was rainy. So, for the first time in the five years that Hyla’s attended OFS, the picnic was inside and there was no graduation ceremony and no Aquarian Gladiator. But we did get the award ceremony.
Most years, there is just one award. It’s the coveted “Golden Sponge” award (a kitchen sponge spray-painted gold), bestowed upon the one or two children who have helped clean up after lunch more often and more willingly the entire year than any others.
This year there were two recipients, and one of them was Hyla.
Hyla set out this year to win this award. She announced at the start of the year that she was “going for the golden sponge”. As far as she reported, she raised her hand every single day when Jean (her teacher) asked for volunteers to clean up after lunch. Even so, when the time came for the award ceremony, she was unsure if she’d actually get it.
The pure pleasure on her face when she had it in her hands was a sweet thing to behold.
She tells me that her pack of friends have already got it figured out who’s going to go for the sponge next year, and the year after. Maybe we should disapprove of their attempts to “fix” the award, but, really, how can we complain about a pack of kids trying to outdo each other by volunteering to help clean up their school?