5th Annual International Dot Day Shows Students They Matter

On September 15th, International Dot Day, kids are encouraged to start with a dot — to ‘make a mark and see where it takes you.’

For Angela Maiers, making sure her students knew they mattered was the cornerstone of her teaching success. She found that when students gained a strong belief in their own importance, they made themselves a priority and treated their own education as something worth pursuing. The power of those two simple words — “You matter!” — transformed children from passive observers of their own life to dedicated actors, gaining courage and confidence in their abilities.

Why it is important for teachers to work towards endowing their students with this kind of self-confidence was the topic of Maiers’ TEDx Conference talk in Des Moines, Iowa this August. Her clarion call was picked up by so many, it united people all over the country and all over the world and channeled that enthusiasm into a global movement called Choose2Matter. The idea is to answer the question of ‘What would happen if children and adults not only believed that they had the power to take on the world, but chose to use it?’

Maiers’ presentation drew the attention of Peter H. Reynolds, author of The Dot, a book that aimed to help students raise their self-esteem, and the founder of FableVision. With their focus on bolstering children’s sense of themselves, it’s not surprising that their paths crossed. Maiers credits Reynolds’ work for inspiring both her teaching and her life, not only for his writing, but for his advocacy work on behalf of students everywhere. Reynolds carried that commitment over to his company FableVision, which was created on the ethos of social change, and dedicated to telling “stories that matter, stories that move.”

That is how both Maiers and Reynolds came to serve as Featured Partners on the 5th annual celebration of International Dot Day. The scope of the celebration has expanded dramatically ever since the very first Dot Day, which took place in a single classroom in Waterloo, Iowa. Initially, the idea, put forward by teacher Terry Shay, was to celebrate the birthday of Reynolds’ book – it was published on September 15th, 2003 – but since then it has grown into so much more.

Inspired by The Dot, a story of a perceptive and caring teacher who reaches a reluctant student by encouraging her to trust in her own abilities and to be brave enough to “just make a mark and see where it takes you,” International Dot Day is a dedicated day to explore the themes of creativity, bravery and self-expression.  Last year there were 17,500 students signed up to participate, but participant sign-ups have soared this year with more 300,000already registered.

International Dot Day celebrations are scheduled to take place all over the world, with 15,000 events drawing over half-a-million participants, both children and adults. Even the run-up to the event has been generating unusual amount of excitement. This year, Reynolds’ FableVision, one of the International Dot Day partners, launched a Celebri-dots Blog, which features dots designed by celebrities including authors Sharon Creech, Emma Walton Hamilton, and the veteran of Broadway musicals, films and television shows, Julie Andrews.

This year the global kickoff will take place in Boston in Children’s Wharf at the Boston Children’s Museum. In addition to Reynolds, Mayor Thomas Menino will also be on hand to celebrate.

Families, educators and the community at large will participate in an array of activities that celebrate the themes of courage, confidence and creativity throughout the Fort Point Channel neighborhood.

“There is no better place to kick off International Dot Day than at Fort Point Channel, which is home to Children’s Wharf, the Innovation District and one of the largest, oldest artist communities in the nation,” said Carole Charnow CEO of the Boston Children’s Museum.  “As the Boston Children’s Museum prepares to celebrate 100 years of fostering creativity and playful learning in 2013, we are thrilled to be hosting this important event.”

The best part of International Dot Day is the myriad ways that it can be commemorated. Shay, who is now credited with being the founder of the event, says that every year he is blown away by the creativity that some teachers put into their celebrations. For some, it could be just a half-an-hour-long classroom activity, while for others, the events could consume the whole school and even the entire week. Some districts even use the Dot Day and the book that inspired it as a year-long theme, with all the neighborhood schools working towards raising the self-esteem and confidence of their students.

Although the event kicks off this Saturday, it is not to late to take part. To make your mark, sign up as a participant at the International Dot Day website, enjoy Reynolds’ The Dot, and download the free Educator’s Handbook for suggestions and ideas about great activities designed to celebrate and encourage creativity in the classroom and beyond.

Check out what others have done in their classrooms by visiting the Dot Gallery where you’ll find photos to give you more ideas and inspiration. And take a look at the videos below – more great ideas that you can borrow or adapt!

This video, “Two Libraries, One Voice Dot Day Celebration,” captures a collaboration by Shannon Miller and John Schumacher, who each celebrated with their students in separate states: