Under the Flags of Gratitude: Sherwood Montessori fosters thankfulness with a Festival of Gratitude

Sherwood Montessori is kicking off November with an autumn festival on November 3. From after school to sundown, students and their families will play carnival games, run relays, enjoy a potluck dinner of hearty autumnal soups and chilis and make fall-themed crafts such as pinecone bird feeders. Donn Thomson, a local square dance caller, will set toes a-tappin’ as he coaches the crowd on do-si-dos and promenades. Shibumi, an acoustic string duo featuring a Sherwood parent, will treat the crowd to a live-music cake walk, whose lucky winners will delight in home-baked treats. Other Sherwood parents will distribute the iconic flavor of fall by passing out cups of apple cider.

These fun and festive activities give families the opportunity to foster community and build friendships. But the focus of this event doesn’t stop with community enhancement. As indicated by its name, the Festival of Gratitude also inspires an attitude of thankfulness among the Sherwood Montessori community. Sherwood’s principal, Michelle Yezbick, reflects, “the school’s fall tradition has changed a bit over the years, but it has always included sharing warming, healthy food and expressing our gratitude for the community we create together.”

Becky Kambourian, the festival’s volunteer coordinator, likewise treasures the school’s community. Her son, now in fourth grade, began attending Sherwood Montessori when the school relocated to Chapman Elementary School campus last year. Becky immediately jumped into volunteering with last year’s Festival of Gratitude and has returned to help bring it to life for its second year. “Sherwood has been perfect for my son,” Becky says. “His teachers are so great and the independent learning style is exactly what he needs. This festival is a way to celebrate the wonderful community we have at this school and thank everyone, from parents to administrators to teachers, for making it such a positive environment.”

In preparation for the event, Sherwood kids and teachers create “gratitude flags,” decorated with words of what the students are thankful for, generated in classroom discussion. These flags, fashioned from fabric donated by parents, will adorn the school during the festival and, says Becky, “will also remain proudly hung to remind us of what we are grateful for throughout the year.”

While the flags serve as reminders of inward-focused gratitude, the festival creates ways to show gratitude in action. For starters, the festival promotes gratitude for resources by striving for minimal waste. Instead of using paper plates and plastic utensils, families will bring their own dishes from home. Home-baked goods eliminate the litter of packaging. Maisie Jane’s Pumpkin Patch donates pumpkins and hay bales that would otherwise go to waste after the pumpkin craze of Halloween dissipates. The hay bales become decoration and seating and the pumpkins become bowling balls for harvest-themed games.

Turning the festival into a reality requires volunteered time, energy and resources of the whole Sherwood community. Vintage Love Décor, owned by friends of Sherwood parents, donates signs and decorations. Sierra Sunrise, a Sherwood parent who teaches hoop dancing, will offer her hula hoops and free instruction. Chapman Elementary School offers tables and chairs to help accommodate the families. A team of parents also donates skills and serving hands to prepare, carry out and clean up after the event. “Serving others really gives you a grateful heart,” says Becky. “We all get really busy with our lives, but we should stop for a moment and think about someone else, or even about the greater picture, like the school or the community we’re involved with. It’s important to give back and help each other in any way we can.”

Principal Yezbick describes Sherwood as a “close and supportive community,” and the Festival of Gratitude helps build this positive environment. By appreciating people today, the Festival of Gratitude intends to set a precedent of thankfulness to guide the school for years to come. 

Jenna Christophersen
About Jenna Christophersen

Jenna Christophersen is a Chico native who loves her community and can never get quite enough of the arts. She supports fostering creativity in any venue, especially as a part of young people’s daily lives.

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