Depending on how you approach it, there are a handful of holidays and notable events in each school month. How should schools mark holidays? In this post, we’ll look briefly at how schools can arrange their holiday signage in advance, before looking at some of the major concerns for schools when it comes to marking holidays and other cultural events, including those that take place while school’s still in session. We’ll talk about the value of integrating holidays with school and community life, including academically. And we’ll make some recommendations for adaptable templates to make holidays go easier and better.
Planning for the holidays
Planning for the year’s round of holidays and special occasions can seem pretty daunting. But it saves you endless time and stress when those days roll around. Schools can take advantage of Rise Vision’s scheduling dashboard to build-out planned holiday-themed displays ahead of time. You might need to revisit them closer to the occasion, especially if they include details about specific events.
This works best when you’re not just scheduling Rise Vision content in a vacuum, but building it alongside your school year plan. For example, Veterans’ Day might mean a special event at your school. It might also involve reorienting history classes to focus on the day’s meaning or English classes to examine relevant texts.
Creating and managing a schedule of Rise Vision displays to support these efforts involves continually revisiting both teaching and school event planning, and Rise Vision schedules. But once the skeletons of both are in place it becomes a lot easier to switch out dates and names. You can also build digital signage in tandem with other messaging including letters home, social media content, emails, and the school website.
Here’s how you can use Rise Vision’s extensive template library to create content that supports the educational, cultural, and pastoral elements of holidays throughout the year.
Veterans’ Day: Actions speak louder than words
Some holidays, like Thanksgiving and Veterans’ Day, are about commemorating events in the past. On Thanksgiving, Americans honor their nation’s founding. On Veterans’ Day, they honor the fallen and their sacrifice. These holidays are often times when people want to show their respect and understanding of others’ actions by doing something themselves.
They’re also crucial teaching opportunities, where people’s lived experiences come closest to touching the facts and narratives of their history classes. When just one American in three could pass the USA’s citizenship test, that matters. Our brains are built to understand and remember stories, not collections of facts: schools need opportunities to tie in the stories of students’ loves with the broader narratives of the nation and its culture and history.
For example, Veterans’ Day is often a time when American schools host parades or other events intended to commemorate the sacrifices of service members. One potential role of digital signage can be to remind students and staff of the date, time, and location of these events. They often involve considerable preparation — school bands might play unfamiliar material, for instance. Signage can be used in the run-up to these events to help encourage attendance at practices and other preparatory efforts. This doesn’t have to be dedicated templates — reminders can be sent via the school’s Twitter account and embedded in more general signage, especially in high-traffic public areas of the school.
On the day itself, schools can use templates that match the event to give the school building and body a sense of awareness and focus.
In addition, though, less directly-relevant Rise Vision templates can be populated with recommendations for things students can do to support veterans. Many students will have or have lost, a vet in their own family, and others will feel the desire to help out as well as show respect. This could be done via partnerships with veterans’ organizations such as:
- DAV (Department of Veterans Affairs) volunteering options, which include social media and fitness fundraising.
- Operation Gratitude supports veterans as well as active troops, military families, and first responders. They offer virtual volunteerism opportunities including letter writing, crafting, and purchasing products through Amazon Smile.
- Soldiers’ Angels aims to uplift service members and families with virtual volunteering that can include throwing virtual baby showers for spouses of deployed members, letters and care packages, and comforting service members or their families.
Schools can encourage students to participate and then incorporate the results into their efforts to celebrate students’ successes. It’s a net positive — for students, vets, and the school.
Dr. King: understanding the dream
On holidays like Martin Luther King Day or Presidents’ Day, we’re celebrating someone’s life and achievements. But we’re also going deeper, to see who they were, what they did, and why their achievements matter. That’s true of presidents past and present. It’s true of Martin Luther King too.
Dr. King’s Day falls just before Black History Month, giving schools an excellent opportunity to contextualize King and discuss his circumstances, actions, and legacy. Clearly, this ties into American History classes; there are also some speeches for the English department to work with. Whole-school efforts to engage with the material can be guided by assemblies and classroom and hallway signage.
The approach chosen obviously depends on many factors, including the age range of the school’s students.
Digital signage can be used in public places to remind students of the meaning of the month and day; in classrooms, it can be used where displays are not in use for teaching when it’s appropriate to the class and syllabus.
As a teaching method, this is highly effective: digital signage gets around five times as much attention as static signage, between 13% and 41% more retention — and that’s when the messaging is more or less the same. It also gives teachers the opportunity to show students things they couldn’t otherwise, including blended content from video streaming sites embedded in presentations. Looping videos and gifs can even be embedded in Rise Vision templates — or schools can use our animated templates for classrooms and hallways.
Hanukkah Dreidel, happy holidays: who we are, together
Many of our holidays are cultural celebrations of identity, continuity, and values. Christmas and Easter are crucial events in the Christian calendar, celebrated by many non-Christians. There’s a strong cultural element to Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Eid, Cinco de Mayo, and St Patrick’s Day too.
How should schools approach these holidays?
It’s best to use a two-forked approach. On one hand, some content should be aimed squarely at those students who celebrate the holiday. And on the other, some should be aimed at students who don’t but who would like to understand more about it. In this way, in-school signage relating to holidays can contribute to a better understanding of the religious beliefs and cultural traditions of others. Equally importantly, some students may learn something about the history and meaning of their own cultural events!
Such discussions can be begun even with very simple signage:
When it comes to the winter holidays, many students will see the season primarily in terms of Christmas, whether for cultural or religious reasons, and there’s nothing wrong with recognizing that…
However, many other students will have different cultural touchstones. If Christmas gets airtime, make sure other holidays at the same season also get a look-in:
However, appeals to the wider culture’s shared touchstones are often also a good idea:
These approaches speak to wider concerns with cultural awareness. From school-level recognition of cultural events like Cinco de Mayo, departmental heads, schools, or student groups can grow cultural links with the local community. ‘Organizations like social clubs, advocacy groups, religious institutions, civic groups, unions, colleges, and universities can help you deliver your messages in a forum that is relevant to your audience,’ says the National PTA’s Guide to Cultural Awareness for State and Local PTAs.
Festivities: making sure everyone feels invited
Festive holidays like Halloween call for a less somber tone. A couple months into the new school year, with days shortening and weather closing in, Halloween is an opportunity for students to blow off a little steam.
It’s a time when students will naturally be in high spirits, and it’s a chance to both encourage those feelings — and to remind students of the importance of inclusion and sensitivity.
When Easter comes around, some students will view it primarily in religious terms, but the majority will be more concerned with the prospect of a week off school. Schools should find ways to fit the beliefs of one group of students respectfully into the wider narrative, but the emphasis is likely to be on the effect on the school as a whole.
This approach holds good for Thanksgiving too. It’s a shared holiday, and very much a time to spend with family, so that should be foregrounded:
But it’s also an opportunity to remind students and staff of the importance of their shared experience at school in the run-up, and that’s a chance that shouldn’t be missed — whatever the nature of the holiday.
Schools don’t have to treat holidays as just a date on the calendar. They can be an opportunity to engage and teach students, and to allow them to learn from one another. Hallway signage that helps students understand how the events of the season relate to their lives can help. So can signage that makes it clear that the school regards a range of cultural events as worthy of celebration and respect, and expects its students to feel likewise; representation and support matter.
Delivering these messages doesn’t start and end with digital signage — far from it. School curriculums, teaching staff, students, and leaders are at the center of the work. But digital displays are an irreplaceably effective tool for teaching, especially for conveying complex information quickly. Centrally-controlled, scheduled digital signage can be a powerful addition to school toolkits.
To see more holiday-appropriate signage templates from Rise Vision, search your Rise Vision dashboard for the relevant holiday, check out the template library here, or view and download our winter holiday season template package.