By Anne Weinberg
When Granville parent, Dan Katona, was asked to help out with a project for his daughters’ third-grade classroom, he didn’t hesitate. Collaborating with 22 eight- and nine-year olds would be a challenge, but also a chance to spend some time with his twin daughters and support the school at the same time.
Dan’s assignment: help students in Ms. Ehrmin’s third grade class at Granville Elementary School imagine and execute a one-of-a-kind creation to be auctioned at the Rock of Aces Auction on March 10th. For those of you who have never experienced it, the bi-annual auction organized by the Granville PTO and dozens of parent volunteers raises roughly $80,000 in just one night. Funds from the auction are split between the Granville Elementary and Granville Intermediate Schools and are used for programs and projects that enrich students’ educational experiences, (everything from visiting artists and Science Night to climbing walls and exercise trails).
In addition to the many auction items donated by local businesses, each GES and GIS classroom donates a creation of their own. This year, there will be 51 class projects at the auction. These projects often draw the most enthusiastic bids, as much as $1,200 per piece. In other words, Dan realized, the final piece had to be original, inspired, and capable of securing the kinds of bids that would translate into well deserved funds for the school. Incidentally, Dan’s wife is organizing their kindergartner’s auction project, so there is no small amount of family competition for who will secure the highest bid!
Fortunately, Dan came up with the perfect idea: six word memoirs, a popular platform for storytelling that’s gaining traction in classrooms, boardrooms, and staff retreats across the country. You can actually find more than one million six-word memoirs from around the world at sixwordmemoirs.com.
It made sense. Kids love to read and tell stories. And what better way than in six carefully chosen words? Dan explains, "The Six Word Memoir Project was launched by Larry Smith, who lives in Columbus, and after participating in a writing session with him last year, I knew what a simple but powerful form of expression it could be -- perfect for this awesome PTO event."
Choosing to focus on “My Granville” also made sense to Dan. "Granville is an incredible and welcoming place, but everyone experiences it differently. I wanted to give these kids a way to share what they think makes their community great or inspiring or different or fun, without being intimidated. So this was perfect. With only six words you get some humor, some deep thought, some silliness -- but everything authentic, everyone valued. It takes the fear factor away. Anyone can do it."
Once collected, the children’s memoirs would be laid out using graphic design software, and then printed and applied to a large wooden “ACE” made of recycled wood from the Wildwood Park playground, which was demolished last fall and will be rebuilt in April. "That playground brought joy to Granville for decades -- its wood was the perfect place to put these stories," Dan said.
In addition to six-word memoirs from kids, Dan reached out to eleven community leaders for their own memoirs to add to the project. "Mixing regular folks in with celebrities is what they do in the six word memoir books, so I thought it would be fun to try it here, but I was a little surprised at how enthusiastic everyone was," Dan said. "And it sort of sticks with you. GRD Director Andy Wildman was telling everyone about it. GEVSD Superintendent Jeff Brown tells me he keeps thinking in six-word groupings, and coming up with new ones, many weeks later. It takes on a life of its own."