This is our fourth year with a learning theme. The theme this year is, "Cross a bridge to new ideas. Build a bridge to connect them." We're doing lots of things with bridges.
What this isn't is a bunch of arts and crafts activities. It's more using bridges as a metaphor for learning both academically and socially. We launched the year with helping kids understand how a bridge is simply something that connects two things. In our situation the two things are our current understanding of some topic or concept, and greater understanding of it. Throughout the year, teachers refer to the bridge metaphor as much as possible in their teaching, in organizers they create, in bulletin boards that have student learning on them.
Here is a smattering of things we do...
1. In our effort to teach kids social skills, we use the metaphor of bridging ourselves with others to teach the social skill of small talk. A slide show in an assembly helped us do this.
2. We send home a bimonthly newsletter called, "The Bridge," which tells the quick story of a famous bridge, and some character building message related to that bridge's name. For example, the George Washington Bridge is named after the first President, so the message is about setting priorities to see what is #1 in your life.
3. We create bridge-type learning progressions to help kids work in highly metacognitive ways in the classroom.
We also use the bridge as a metaphor in our professional learning. We are trying to get from our current understanding of topics in our teaching (like conferring, assessment, Depths of Knowledge, anything!) to new understanding. Each year, we make our learning theme match professional development goals. This allows PD to feel like an exploration, and teachers don't need to feel like they're doing something wrong...and that it's natural for teachers to learn and grow, just like kids!
We've used journeys, reflecting in mirrors, and adding pieces to puzzles as other themes. It's a great way to create a sense of learning morale in your school. You can do this with your whole school if you're a principal, a grade level, or an individual classroom.
Try it out, and see how it goes! You really can't go wrong!