Survey shows exercises reflect local custom


April 18, 1995|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,Sun Staff Writer

For openers each day in Maryland, the public schools engage in ceremony.

Morning exercises are designed to promote patriotism, get the students in the mood for work, praise the achievers and showcase their work, announce cafeteria choices, celebrate birthdays and give a student the chance to clutch the mike in the principal's office and hear his or her voice echo down the hallways. It's a thrilling moment for which some students prepare days in advance.

Gone, of course, are the Lord's Prayer and recitation of Psalms. Fourteen-year-old William J. Murray and his mother, Madalyn, took care of that 35 years ago in Baltimore. Today's opening exercises take place, as they always have, around the flag, but they're designed in large part to stuff one more quarter of a "normal curve equivalent" of learning or a tip on the next round of state tests into the minds of young Marylanders.

Still, a survey of 10 elementary schools across the state found variants that reflect local culture and habits. In alphabetical order by subdivision:

Shipley's Choice Elementary, Millersville, Anne Arundel County. Morning exercises are on closed-circuit television. The daily program, "Good Morning, Shipley's," includes the Pledge of Allegiance, which is signed for the hearing impaired, and such items as the cafeteria menu. Students new to the school are introduced. A math problem might be presented that students can mull during the day.

Rodman Elementary, Baltimore City. One of the for-profit "Tesseract" schools, Rodman has an elaborate opening program that is part of the "morning meeting" attended by all students and teachers. Rodman students pledge themselves to the flag, but also to Tesseract, to their school and to regular attendance. It is one of only two schools in our survey with schoolwide patriotic singing. "America" and "Lift Every Voice" are regulars.

Scotts Branch Elementary, Randallstown, Baltimore County. A group of children recites the pledge over the p.a. Birthdays are announced. The school tries to organize the morning exercises around themes. During Black History Month, African-American fathers read from black literature.

Winfield Elementary, Westminster, Carroll County. Two fifth-grade students, different ones each day, do schoolwide announcements. Classes continue the exercises on their own. Kindergartners, for example, discuss the date and the weather as educational activities.

Rising Sun Elementary, Cecil County. Another school blessed with a TV studio, Rising Sun conducts opening activities each morning at 9:03. Assistant Principal Todd Harvey is the cameraman, but students do the rest of the work. "We try to promote learning things," says Mr. Harvey. A recent program discussed POGs, the tiddlywinks-like game that excites children and vexes educators.

Eva Turner Elementary, Waldorf, Charles County. A group of fifth-graders does the honors in this open-space school, but opening exercises follow warm-up academic activities. Principal Linda H. Long keeps things interesting with a "morning mystery" and trivia question. Students deposit the answers in a box, and winners are announced daily.

Kitzmiller School, Garrett County. Starts with the pledge, the weather, calendar -- and, on some days, calisthenics.

North Harford, Pylesville, Harford County. Students conduct the exercises over the p.a. The session includes the pledge, cafeteria choices, weather and time.

Phelps Luck Elementary, Columbia, Howard County. Two children lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Adults and children often read favorite stories.

Tylerton School, Smith Island, Somerset County. Two of the school's nine pupils lead the pledge, then one of them chooses a patriotic song and a "fun" song. As part of opening exercises, students share experiences and discuss current events. (Tylerton is the only one-room public school in Maryland.)

We could not find a school with a "moment of silence" as part of its morning routine, though the practice is perfectly constitutional if it doesn't involve prayer recitation.

Maryland, the beautiful

Marylanders must be among the world's most beautiful people. The state Higher Education Commission reported recently that 39 of the state's 98 career schools specialize in cosmetology, enrolling 6,700 of the 21,665 students in profit-making vocational schools.

Cosmetology schools took in $9.4 million in tuition last year, the -- commission said. The second largest category (by enrollment) was drafting and electronics. Three-thousand students at five schools in this category paid $8.4 million in tuition.

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