How do you get a 5th-grader to keep a secret? Have them take part in the tradition of selecting the Lower School theme word of the year. For the past nine years, fifth-graders have had the privilege of choosing the theme word that is shared with the rest of the Lower School and incorporated in classes throughout the year. The school year culminates with one fifth-grader being chosen as the person who most exemplifies the word.
“The students have known the word since Aug. 25,” said Kristin Moffett, Lower School counselor. “Students aren't allowed to tell anyone the word, only their pets.”
Moffett said students are asked to choose a word that students of all ages can use to help them lead because leadership is earned; it’s not just based on your age or time spent at Walker.
Previous words have included integrity (the word chosen by the Class of 2021 when they were in fifth grade), empathy, perseverance, humility, bold, leadership, optimism and last year’s word: determination. On selection day, the entire fifth grade meets in a room, and each student is asked to suggest two words. Definitions are discussed to make sure everyone understands the words being offered. Once all of the suggestions are collected, teachers call out each word and students – heads down on tables to keep students from peeking – raise their hands to vote until the perfect word is selected.
“The words tend to reflect what the class wants to work on, and they present that,” Moffett said. “It’s not that they don’t have (she said the word, but you’ll have to wait), but it may mean they are pushing for themselves to be better.”
Once the word is chosen, every fifth-grader participates in the process of the great reveal – singing and dancing to a song with lyrics that sign up to work in different groups to share the word with the Lower School. Some sing and dance, others document the process of identifying the word and others create posters to give Lower School students hints about what the word could be.
“The anticipation builds and hits a fever pitch by the day the word is announced,” Moffett said. “This has become a rite of passage.”
This year the word had to be presented a bit differently because of safety protocols, but it wasn’t any less exciting. To find out the theme word for the 2021-2022 school year, click this link