Field Day is a longstanding, end-of-school-year tradition at Sauk Rapids-Rice’s three elementary schools. The day is comprised of student challenges organized into six areas. All students at each school participate and rotate to the day’s activity stations. Some Field Day challenges are common to all three of the district’s elementary schools, but each school may also customize activities. The events often have descriptive names that reveal what the competition entails, such as Pool Noodle, Javelin, Cup Tower Stacking, Pillow Jump, Obstacle Course and Tug-O-War.
Activities are generally retained year-after-year. Sharee Rask, physical education teacher at Rice Elementary, says, “I started in 1993 and the events at our school have pretty much stayed the same. There have been some additions due to class sizes and weather, but the core stations are consistent. The one highlight that people talk about as they return with their kids is the Tug-O-War. A typical Rice Field Day would have six stations: a 50-yard dash, a three-legged race, a gunny sack race, a tire relay, an obstacle course and a tennis ball throw. The grade levels rotate through the events and then we gather to do an optional long run that follows the outside perimeter of the field and ends with the grade-level Tug-O-War.”
While the Field Day format hasn’t changed for decades, this year was, of course, different and the shift to distance learning brought necessary alterations to the day at all of the schools. Coordinators modified the activities so students and families could participate from home. “All of our school specialists did a great job of creating demonstration videos for each of the activities, shared modifications and suggested materials that students could use for the competitions away from school,” Mississippi Heights Elementary Assistant Principal Megan Foley explains. “Families who submitted their Field Day video and photos to teachers suggest the Egg Toss, Shooting Hoops and obstacle course were some of the kids’ favorites.”
Participation in Field Day was optional this year, but all three schools report that students and families who did choose to participate found a lot of enjoyment in working together and creating the challenges from everyday materials around home. “This year there were 47 different challenges that could be chosen by the whole family. Students were encouraged to pick five but were allowed to do as many as they wanted. These activities could be competitions against time or a family member. We provided a certificate students and families could print out when they completed the challenges,” reports Rask. “I think families valued the time they spent with students, along with creating and changing up the challenge to make it work for them.”
Sara Tabatt, physical education teacher at Pleasantview, says she had hoped whole families would participate in the day together. “About 300 Pleasantview students participated this year. Some did events independently, but most involved their whole family, which is exactly what I was hoping for! Families said that their kids loved Field Day this year, and brought back some normalcy for a day. They liked that younger siblings were able to be involved, as well as an adult in the household.”
No one really seems to know how long Field Day has been around in the district. Some think the concept was born in the 1970s. Nevertheless, the day is meant to inspire community spirit and showcase healthy competition. For Tabatt, the value of Field Day is that it is an opportunity for students to practice being good sports. The characteristics of being a good sport are nurtured in all students across grade levels throughout the school year and at all three schools. Tabatt says, “On Field Day, students get to showcase how they are good sports in front of the whole school.”
She feels that anyone who participates will quickly experience the benefits, in school or at home. She says, “When students and families participate, they are working together and bringing healthy competition into their home.”
Although Field Day wasn’t held in person this year, staff were able to preserve the event and carry this important school tradition on. This is important to our community because Rask says she has seen how parents look forward to having their own children experience the event as they once did at school in the district: “Some of our students have parents who went to Rice themselves. They want to watch their children doing what they once did during Field Day.”
This year, Pleasantview and Rice held their Field Days on May 15, and Mississippi Heights Elementary allowed each grade level to choose the day they wanted to hold the event, with the majority of grades also choosing May 15.
See Pleasantview Field Day 2020 photos HERE.
See Rice Field Day 2020 photos HERE.
See Mississippi Heights Field Day 2020 photos HERE.