Celebrating Community and Traditions at the Holidays

By Patty Barrett, Principal, Henry C. Sandborn Elementary School, Andover, MA

Following a yearlong sabbatical in England with her husband, then Henry C. Sanborn Elementary School Music Teacher Mary Guzjeka returned to her position in 1978 with an idea for a project to unite her elementary school children with members of the senior community.  She envisioned combining music, the spirit of giving, and community visits to spread happiness and build connections between her students and senior citizens, many of whom were housebound, in the Andover community.

packing-the-bagsIt would be an understatement to say that her idea took off!  Last week, at Sanborn School, we celebrated our 38th annual Harvest Festival.  The Harvest Festival has two components.  The first is marked by the personal delivery of gift bags to Andover Seniors.  Donations of small items (prepackaged crackers and cheese, fruit, etc.) are collected in the weeks prior to Thanksgiving from all children.  Crafts created by our first and second graders are included in the gift bags, as are festive greeting cards made by our third and fifth graders.  Fourth graders prepare invitations to our Harvest Festival Assembly.

bag-packing-2-1The gift bags are assembled the day before delivery by our fourth graders and contain the donations of drinks and snacks from Sanborn families as well as spider plants potted by the Sanborn Cub Scouts and tea beautifully wrapped from Sanborn Girl Scouts.  Parent volunteers help the fourth graders and put the finishing touches on the bags.

Then on the Friday before Thanksgiving, our 5th grade students, led by teachers and parent volunteers, deliver 300 gift bags to senior citizens throughout Andover.  They knocked on over 200 doors, visited three assisted living facilities where the children talked, drew pictures and sang songs for many appreciative seniors.  The morning concludes with the students gathering at the The Center at Punchard (Andover’s Senior Center) for a performance led by our current music teacher, Diane Waddell.

academy-manorMembers of the Senior Community as well as town and school leaders all gather at Sanborn School on the Tuesday morning prior to Thanksgiving for our completion of the celebration – the Harvest Festival program.  The program showcases visual arts, music and dance, a high school senior (a Sanborn alum) as our guest speaker, and concludes with an intergenerational chorus.  It is a wonderful way to kick off our holiday season!

img_0710Patty has served as the Principal of the Henry C. Sanborn Elementary School in Andover, MA for the past ten years.  Prior to that she was an Elementary Principal in the Wakefield Public Schools for thirteen years.  Patty holds a seat on the MESPA Board of Directors and serves as an NAESP Principal Mentor.  You can connect with her on Twitter @sanborn_bulldog


Are you interested in sharing your ideas, insights and questions? If so, click here to sign up for a post. Julie Vincentsen, Principal of Ruggles Lane School, will reach out with specifics. Are you interested but nervous because you’ve never blogged before and don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry – as long as you know how to use Microsoft Word you will be up to this challenge. We write for our communities all the time – this just changes your audience. You probably could even take a current newsletter you’ve written and repurpose it for your colleagues!

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