'Dot Day' encourages Naperville students to be creative

It's a quick children's book that takes an adult maybe four minutes to read aloud.


But "The Dot" by Peter H. Reynolds has such a message that educators at Maplebrook Elementary in Naperville Unit District 203 make sure students hear it every year.

Around the time of International Dot Day, an event to inspire creativity, courage and collaboration, Maplebrook students join more than 12 million others around the world involved in reading and art related to the book.


Learning Commons Leader and fifth-grade teacher Laura Bass brought Dot Day, which launched in 2009, to Maplebrook when she joined two years ago, making this the third Dot Day celebration.


"The Dot" tells the story of an art-challenged student whose teacher inspires her to start small. Asked to make her mark and sign her name, the student draws only a black-marker dot. But her teacher frames it, inspiring the student to make a better dot, more colorful dots and a whole series of dot-related art that impresses fellow students.


The story shows a "growth mindset," Bass tells a group of third-graders as they hear the story read by a guest.


"It's a great message," Bass said. "And we just want to encourage it."


With "The Dot" fresh in mind, students then set about art and technology activities that challenged them to learn new skills, start small and persevere, Bass said.


For preschoolers, that meant singing a song with movements. For those in kindergarten, it meant decorating small circles to form the leaves of a tree. First-graders made a quilt out of dots they designed, each student's art forming one-quarter of a quilt square. Second-graders created class posters in which each student got to make his or her own dot.


The activities got a bit more complex from there.


Bass said third-graders got to experiment with a tiny coding robot called an Ozobot, which follows hand-drawn codes, or directions, in patterns of black, blue, green and red marker.


Fourth-grade students drew a design with dots and swirls, then used an augmented reality app to scan it and turn it into an interactive challenge such as a maze.


Fifth-grade classes coded a Sphero, a ball-shaped computerized toy, to turn their teacher's splatters of paint across a white page into a collection of dots.


"We coded Spheros to go through the paint and make dots for Dot Day," fifth-grader Madeline Hay said.


Some cheered on the ball-shaped toy as they directed it to travel straight and turn left through the majority of the blue, yellow and red paint. Some got excited as it created a few dots in a blue-yellow blend, turning green.


Others focused more on a second creative challenge, using an iPad to express through art how they would help the community.


As one student drew a forest, another drew a no-smoking sign. As Ava Fitzgerald drew a trash can for cleaning up, Grant Gardiner said, yes, he was indeed drawing the ocean.


"And I'm going to draw an invisible fish," he said. "Because I'm going to discover new things."


Dot Day creative activities led up to the internationally celebrated day itself, which this year was Sept. 15.


District 203 administrators, Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico, Naperville bookseller and city council member Becky Anderson and Naperville Park District Executive Director Ray McGury were among guest readers, invited both to convey the message from "The Dot" of "make your mark and see where it takes you," and to see what goes on inside the Learning Commons.


"One of my goals is to bring people in the community in, just so they can see what we do in here," Bass said. "Because I think it should be valued."