Rites of Passage: The importance of ritualizing special moments of a child’s life at school

Rites of passage have been a part of the life and history of mankind. Since the beginning of time, all historically known societies and major groups of culture and citizenship perform rites of passage to commune, celebrate, and ritualize significant events, building and preserving memory. As champion of knowledge and cultural aspects tied to bonding and affection, the school has everyday rituals and special rites of passage, celebrating memorable experiences, confronting opinions, and preparing children for a continuous flow of growth and development.

“In today’s society, this experience has been extremely neglected. We live in a time where people struggle to live in the present moment, glued to our cell phones while having dinner, for example. We’re there, but we’re not present. I believe that by setting out to “ritualize”, “wrap up” or “conclude” a learning process or stage, the school – as a place where knowledge is built – helps everyone consciously experience these moments, rediscovering what it means to be present, to be together, commemorating communion and separation, celebrating the path of life. That is what rituals are for,” said Gabriela Fernandes, Elementary School coordinator at be.Living.

Rites of passage at the school mark and enshrine meaningful changes in each child’s role in our society. A good example is our rite of passage for the children in Blue, celebrating their passage from early childhood. “Does growing up mean they can’t play in the court anymore? Does it mean you only do homework all the time? Do bigger kids also eat snacks? Naturally, the children from Blue burst with very legitimate and curious inquiries, which is why we have the ritual of visiting the Elementary School building. This is when they get to talk to the children from Year 1, who have already been through this process, and discover, feel and play in this new, different and much bigger space. Their bodies also change. Just before they leave Early Childhood, they are the oldest and biggest. Now, in Elementary, they’re suddenly the youngest and the smallest, the newcomers. That is why it is important for their bodies to start occupying that new space. Another important rite of passage is what we call “cantonment” – an event where the children have dinner at school, picking their own menu and activities, and spend the night at the school. This year, because of the pandemic, the children didn’t sleep over, but they did have dinner by themselves, without their parents, spending the evening at the school. Spending the night at the school is an extremely important milestone of separation, building their perception of being bigger and more independent, now able to have sleepovers with their friends and teachers,” said Camila Maia, Early Childhood Education coordinator.

Meanwhile, in Elementary School, we have the Year 5 rites of passage, when the children wrap up Elementary I and move on to Elementary II, transitioning from childhood to adolescence. “These rites acknowledge this growth, the completion of a very important stage of development. The school plays a key role in celebrating these moments, building the narrative of each child’s story. Rites exist to organize memories. Speaking as a mother, it is super exciting to experience a Blue ritual, flip through the Year Book and look back on when my little baby first started school, with only 16 months, and now moves on to the next stage almost at the age of 6, seeing everything he learned and all of the changes he went through in his life. Sometimes, it’s hard for the family to celebrate this daily life process own their own. That is where the school comes in to help them,” said Gabi.

At be.Living, every 5th year is built around this aspect of passage. Children from Y5 kick off the year exploring the literary genre of “memoires”, reflecting upon the creation of memory, and also digging into their own memories. “This year, the class plays a different role at school, reflecting upon and exploring memory, welcoming the younger ones, and acting as the school’s organizers, becoming a reference for other children to look up to, ultimately allowing them to feel older among the little ones. The entire curriculum focuses on this aspect. They study the human body to realize how they have grown, while arts & crafts classes focuses on their path and their story at school. The final production, in English, is a documentary about their lives at school. They will talk to teenagers who have already left the school and went through these same changes, ritualizing this process of departing and venturing into a new environment. They produce the entire conclusion ceremony themselves, deciding what will happen, what kind of catering there will be, if they’ll take pictures and film, what kind of music will play. They are responsible for planning everything. Then, there’s also the Arts & Science Exhibition (MAC), which is an individual final term project where they present their own research study to the audience. So, there are several different strategies and stages they experience throughout the year, looking back on everything they have experienced in order to acknowledge this growth process and build a new learning space as independent and conscious individuals.”

Everyone at be.Living wishes all of the children embarking on this new learning experience a great start of the 2022 school year. May this year be filled with new discoveries, adventures, rites and important moments to help each and every one of them grow and thrive.

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