Akiva Kindergarteners proudly hold up their sunflowers during the Sunflower Ceremony
Akiva students begin the year much like students across the country; fresh notebooks, sharpened pencils, and an excitement and readiness to be thoroughly inspired. But for kindergarten students at Akiva, there is one more element to the beginning of school that embodies the singular nature of an Akiva education: sunflowers. At the start of every school year Akiva kindergarteners participate in the annual Sunflower Ceremony where they receive a sunflower and welcome blessing from a sixth-grade student.
Head of School, Rabba Daniella Pressner, says, “The sunflower has come to be an Akiva symbol, representing the journey Akiva students take from Kindergarten to graduation.” Pressner says she has always been amazed when looking at a field of sunflowers, “Each flower is incredibly unique. The petals look different. Their uniformity when seen individually is rarely apparent, but when you stand back to look at a field of sunflowers they appear as one. So, too, at Akiva, where each student is profoundly different, but together they create one vibrant community.”
This year 25 kindergarteners and their families participated in the Sunflower Ceremony and were welcomed into the Akiva community by their teachers and friends. Sixth graders presented each kindergartener with a sunflower and a personalized message. In conveying her blessing to one kindergartener, sixth grader Harper Finley said, “Having a friend at Akiva is not just a friend, they become family. And this family will last a lifetime.” Harper’s message rang true with Sophie Rapoport, mom to Kindergartener Levi Barton. For Rapoport the ceremony emphasized “the love the sixth graders shared for the school and the communal bonds the kindergarteners have already developed.”
Ms. Ellen Haber is one of Akiva’s Kindergarten teachers, and this year was her first time experiencing the Sunflower Ceremony. Haber echoed Harper and Rapoport’s sentiments, reflecting that the ceremony “emphasized what an important part of the Akiva community each child is. The balance of individual and communal belonging is what makes Akiva such a remarkable school.”
The symbol of the sunflower comes full circle for Akiva students when, upon graduation, they receive a packet of sunflower seeds with the message that it is now their turn to take part in building our future. The Akiva community offers the blessing to all students that they continue to grow tall physically, academically, emotionally, and spiritually and may they always feel supported by the sunflowers growing alongside them.