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May Day traditions live on at Castle Rock school

Held on the school’s grounds in Castle Rock. Below, fifth grade students dance the Maypole as a way to say goodbye to their years at Prairie Creek Community School. 1 / 2
Fourth grade students at Prairie Creek Community School provided the music for this year’s Maypole dance.2 / 2

May 1 was a gloomy, cool, drippy and overcast day. But to the kids at Prairie Creek Community School in Castle Rock, it was another cheerful May Day.

Since the mid-1980s, Prairie Creek Community School has celebrated May Day the old-fashioned way — by Maypole dancing.

They start the celebration by conducting their own May Day parade through downtown Castle Rock. They walk, wave, blow bubbles and give smiles to everyone along the short route. Their route takes them to Castle Rock Bank, where they stop to sing a song for bank employees and patrons. Then, they continue on, back to the school.

Prairie Creek Community School serves students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The Maypole dance is performed each year by the fifth graders, as a symbol of their lives together at the school, fourth-fifth grade teacher Michelle Martin said.

“When they come to our school, they’re like each individual ribbon. They’re all individuals, and they’re all lovely like the ribbon. As they work together, play together and learn together, they form a fabric with those ribbons. Sometimes that fabric has lumps and bumps, but it’s always stronger than that individual ribbon,” Martin said. “It’s this new and beautiful thing that they can take that strong fabric with them into their new school.”

There are 182 students enrolled this year at Prairie Creek Community School. Most of those students will attend middle and high school in Northfield, but the school also draws students from Farmington, Lakeville, Nerstrand and other area communities. In a way, the Maypole symbolizes that, no matter where they go, the students will always have ties to Prairie Creek Community School.

“It’s welcoming the spring, of course, but it’s also just such a special part of our tradition to be able to be together as a group that’s moving on,” Martin said.

The music, which consists of recorders, drums and tambourines, is provided by the fourth grade students. The May Day celebration can be a little bittersweet for the younger students, because they’re looking forward to the future. But they’re also going to miss their classmates next year, Martin said.

“We’re ready to launch them, but boy, we’re going to miss them, too,” Martin said.

Students and staff start preparing for the May Day event in the days before May 1. Each year has a slightly different theme, administrative assistant Colleen Braucher said. This year, students made brightly colored headbands festooned with paper flowers and strips of paper. Other years they have made banners or carried large, brightly decorated ornaments.

Prairie Creek Community School is located off the dirt road of Denmark Avenue, just north of County Road 86, in Castle Rock. It’s a public, elementary charter school that focuses its education principles largely on project-based, hands-on education.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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