What's in a name? Plenty, if you ask pupils at Dasher Green-Owen Brown School in Columbia.
Although Shakespeare suggested in Romeo and Juliet that a thing is what it is and not what it is called, the schoolchildren at Dasher Green-Owen Brown might beg to differ.
For four months, the children have researched new names for their school to create unity among the recently merged elementary and middle schools.
"I think the process is a challenge, but I've enjoyed doing it. It's a great opportunity for kids to help find a new name," said Kara Smalley, a 12-year-old seventh-grader.
Sarah Thorne, also 12, agreed. "It's been a challenge, but it's really been fun and exciting," she said.
Fifteen youngsters in grades four through eight, under the guidance of three Gifted and Talented Program resource teachers at the school, have researched and chosen names for the school based on the area's historical, geographic and literary ties.
They will present 10 choices, including the school's current name, during a town hall meeting from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow at the east Columbia library, 6600 Cradlerock Way.
Vote set next week
The next step involves voting on the names Feb. 11 and 12 at the school. A voting booth will be set up to allow parents, teachers and administrators to cast ballots for the new name.
A booth will be set up in the Giant Food store Feb. 13 in Owen Brown Village Center to allow other community members to vote.
The top three names will be presented to the Board of Education in April. The board will make the final choice. A naming ceremony is scheduled June 2 during the school's Enrichment Fair.
"I think it's awesome what the kids are doing," said Cara Cassell, one of the resource teachers working with the pupils.
"The kids are getting an opportunity to do professional research."
The schoolchildren were divided into three groups, and their research has involved examining maps outlining Columbia's early development; studying the Dasher family, whose land was sold to the Rouse Co. in 1963, and later included in Columbia; and reading poems by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, one of the many poets whose work inspired street names in Columbia.
For more than 30 years, two school names - Dasher Green Elementary School and Owen Brown Middle School - represented the fact that two schools operated independently of each other in the same building.
This year, the school board merged the schools with one principal overseeing about 1,000 pupils in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
The elementary school's name originated with the Dasher family that owned the land before the school was built.
It is not known why Green was added to the name, according to Barbara Kellner, manager of the Columbia Archives.
Owen Brown, she explained, was a postmaster in the area, and a road was named after him that predated Columbia. Part of that road remains on the western side of U.S. 29, but most of it was removed to build Broken Land Parkway.
Kellner said most of the names of schools in Columbia have ties to their location. Wilde Lake and Oakland Mills high schools are in neighborhoods or villages bearing their names.
Proposed names secret
Mum's the word as for the names the pupils have come up with.
"We are keeping that for the meeting," said Vincente D'Antuono, a resource teacher working with the children.
In the meantime, the children are excited about the possibility of renaming their school. "It's been interesting finding out about history and geography with my group," said 12-year-old Katy Rennenkampf, a seventh-grader.
Rebecca Hargrove, 13, an eighth-grader, said that although she is graduating and will not attend the newly named school next year, she is glad to be participating in the process.
"So far, we've taken field trips and researched history about Owen Brown," she said. "It's been great."