North Ward Elementary

North Ward Elementary: Last dance around the maypole

After a long year filled with the rigors of language arts, math and social studies, one more challenge awaits 10-year-old Jordan Olds.

On the last day of school, she'll pair up with her friend Rachael to lead her fifth-grade classmates in the special dance her school has been known for since the 1920s.

Up and down and back and forth she'll glide, weaving ribbons in an intricate pattern around one of four maypoles on the lawn in front of the school. By the end of the dance, the poles will be transformed into bright bursts of color.

"You have to go in and out like you're making a twist in your hair," Jordan said. "Everybody has to do it right. If somebody messes up, the whole thing messes up."

It may look like child's play, but students take it very seriously, said fifth-grade teacher Wendy Noun, who performed the maypole dance herself when she was a student at North Ward in the early 1980s.

Noun's daughter, Katie, mastered the steps last year when she was a North Ward fifth-grader.

"It's almost like a rite of passage for fifth-graders," Noun said. "It's usually aligned with our spring concert, but we're doing it this year right after fifth-grade graduation."

The news of North Ward's closing hit Noun hard. For the past several years, she has taught in the same classroom where she sat as a student.

"I remember feeling very disappointed, very sad," she said. "We're all very close. If I've ever needed anything, the North Ward staff has been there."

She's looking forward to making one more memory. After Jordan, Rachael and the other fifth-graders take their turn, she plans to join her fellow teachers for one more dance around the maypole.

North Ward Elementary: Last dance around the maypole 05/23/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 23, 2009 4:30am]

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