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Celebration of Life

Annie Burgess | Brevard, NC

Birthdays are special for children and adults alike.  I have fond memories of birthday celebrations at home with friends and families.  I remember eating homemade cake and bobbing for apples on one particular birthday. When I think about my birthdays and my time at school, I remember my first grade teacher Mrs. Lawrence presenting me with a Happy Birthday pencil and a colorful certificate.  I remember how special the pencil was to me and how I tried my best not to use the eraser of such a fine instrument in an effort to make it last longer.  I loved Mrs. Lawerence for presenting it to me.  

Teachers play important roles in the lives of children and recognition and acknowledgement of the smallest things can truly impact their days.  I strive to recognize new haircuts or shoes, fresh-boo-boo’s, and body language.  If a child enters with sleepy eyes and sluggish body-language I know that child may need a little time or space or love before jumping right into work.  On the other hand, if a child enters our classroom grinning from ear to ear and eager to tell a story, I recognize it is important to get down on their level and actively listen.  

It is in knowing how much daily recognition and acknowledgement over “small” things can positively affect a child that the grandness of a birthday deserves an especially beautiful and sacred celebration.  Here at Mountain Sun, each classroom has a unique way of recognizing our children’s birthdays.  They are often referred to as “Sun Walks”.  In the Otter classroom, parents are asked to provide two pictures for each year of life for their child.  Parents write notes on the backs of the pictures indicating special moments or memories.  Family members are invited and often attend.  I preview the pictures ahead of time and prepare a story of sorts relying on the parents of the birthday child to fill in the details of course.  

A candle (sun) is lit in the center of our circle and the birthday child carries a globe around the sun for each year of life on earth thus far.  Meanwhile, classmates sing “The earth goes round the sun, The earth goes round the sun, It takes twelve months to get the job done.”

Beautiful pictures and stories are shared and as a community we learn even more about our friends and students. We “gift” the child through song. It is a song shared with me by one of my mentors.

“It’s a celebration, a celebration of life

Gather the round the circle, see the candle bright

This is our friend________, He/She is ___years old.  

Let us join and celebrate as his/her life’s story’s told.

Crawling, walking, running, growing day by day


Life’s a gift we’re given, let us share this way

Singing it’s a celebration, a celebration of life

Gather round the circle, see the candle bright”

We then sing the traditional Happy Birthday song and the birthday child is asked if there is something new he or she would like to learn in the upcoming year.  He or she is then invited to blow out the candle and make a wish.  In closing, peers are invited to share thoughts or kind words with the birthday child.   Expressions of “I love you,” “I like to play with you,” “You are my best friend,” and other heartfelt notions are often shared and the moment is truly beautiful. Morgan and I jump in there as well as we are often filled to the brim with things we want to share with the child.  

The pictures are displayed on a timeline and hung in our classroom where everyone can get a closer look at the images. The timelines are one way each child may feel a sense of belonging in our classroom. I often observe children asking their classmates to share more about the photos displayed.   

Parents often express gratitude for offering such a special celebration.  I know that I speak on behalf of all of the teachers at Mountain Sun when I say that it is truly an honor and a privilege to recognize these sweet children on the their special day.  

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