International Dot Day: A Celebration of Courage and Creativity

September 11, 2018 / by Andrea Calvin

"Just make a mark, and see where it takes you."

— Peter H. Reynolds

"The Dot is the story of a caring teacher who dares a doubting student to trust in her own abilities by being brave enough to 'make her mark.' What begins with a small dot on a piece of paper becomes a breakthrough in confidence and courage, igniting a journey of self-discovery and sharing, which has gone on to inspire countless children and adults around the globe."

— The Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning, and Creativity (TLC)

As the Dot Day legend goes, music teacher Terry Shay in Traer, Iowa was reading The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds, with his class when one inquisitive student looked at the copyright and asked, “Mr. Shay, is September 15th the book's birthday?”

Using their creative smarts, Terry’s class contacted the author, who agreed that the publication date of the book — September 15, 2003 — was, indeed, The Dot’s birthday. Peter’s only stipulation was to suggest that — if the class wanted to celebrate the occasion — the official celebration date be slated for September 15-ish, a nod to Ish, the second book in his Creatrilogy series. With a few tweets, some swirls of a marker, and taking a moment to celebrate creativity, the first Dot Day was celebrated September 15, 2009.

They didn’t know it at the time, but that classroom in Iowa launched a project that would be celebrated in all 50 U.S. states, on seven continents, in 176 countries, and even on the International Space Station.

International Dot Day

What is International Dot Day?

On or around September 15th, millions of children and adults around the globe celebrate International Dot Day. Inspired by The New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds’ classic storybook for all ages, The Dot, International Dot Day inspires young and old to embrace the power of personal creativity to change the world.

After launching in 2009, International Dot Day garnered increasing attention; through word of mouth, in schools, libraries, and communities around the globe. By 2011, registrations had reached 17,500 participants in several states. Noticing the phenomenon, The Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning, and Creativity, Peter H. Reynolds’ nonprofit educational R&D and creative learning support center, helped provide program support for the worldwide Dot Day event.

The organization built and manages The Dot Club website, which provides free registration for the event along with many free resources, including a downloadable Dot Day Educator’s Handbook, multilingual posters, and an official participation certificate. With the Reynolds Center’s help, participation soared past the 850,000 mark in 2012 and by 2013, involvement grew to 1.3 million participants in 84 countries. The count now stands at over 12.5 million in 176 countries.

“The success of International Dot Day is owed to many people who believed in a more creative and connected world, and made it happen,” Terry Shay explained. The first few years, it was librarians and teachers who worked to connect the dots between classrooms and continue the celebration. Educators also do a lot of sharing on the International Dot Day Facebook page.

Shay also noted, "Matthew Winner, Shannon Miller, and Andy Plemmons had a huge impact on participation with their idea for a Google Doc where people could seek connections to other classrooms, using Skype Classroom and Google Hangouts. With this tool, classrooms are connecting, reading the book, sharing their creations, and learning about other schools, states, and countries.” This Google Doc is updated every year and connects hundreds of schools across the globe. Make your connection today.

The 1-2-3’s of Dot Day

If 2018 is your first or your 10th year celebrating International Dot Day, here are three easy steps to get started:

  1. Join. Register at the International Dot Day website and Facebook page for free resources.

  2. Create. Encourage your students to Make Their Mark! From community service projects to art exhibits, Dot Day can take all forms.

  3. Share. Share your Mark with the hashtag #DotDay and we’ll promote your location.

Because we love to share stories from the classroom, here are a few Dot Day highlights to get your plan rolling:

  • Maryann Molishus, a gifted support teacher at Goodnoe Elementary School in Pennsylvania, uses September 15 as a day to honor someone in the community with the Make Your Mark Award.
  • Angela Abend from Oceanside's Project EXTRA in New York, combines art, technology, and heart on Dot Day. Last year her school sent dots to Houston Schools in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Check out her Dot Day retrospective.
  • Kim “Lovie” Howell, a librarian at Stockwell Place Elementary School in Louisiana, put the International in Dot Day. A few years back, her school collaborated with the Daraja Children's Choir from Uganda on a Dot Day project. Both groups of students read the book and shared Dots before the children from Uganda arrived. The most heartwarming moment was when the students took turns reading The Dot.

The Dot is an invitation for people of all ages to be creative, and for many, it's an opportunity to experience a breakthrough in confidence and courage — one that might ignite a journey of creative self-discovery. No matter how you celebrate, Dot Day is a moment to make your personal mark on the world.

Happy Dot Day!

Topics: Professional Learning, Lesson Planning, Engagement

Andrea Calvin

Written by Andrea Calvin

Andrea Calvin works at the Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning, and Creativity to engage new and existing partners to ensure that all learners – especially children – develop the vision, confidence, knowledge, and skills needed to succeed.

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