March 9, 2020
Thinking about how to bring St. Patrick’s Day into the classroom for your high schoolers this year? There are a variety of ways to use this holiday as a teaching opportunity, while also enjoying the whimsy and charm of rainbows and leprechauns.
St. Patrick’s Day is a special day for me – as my name suggests, I come from Irish stock and have the freckles to prove it. My three children are now in high school, but they still enjoy decorating the house with lots of gold, green and shamrocks.
Something our high schoolers may not realize is that St. Patrick’s Day is more than four-leaf clovers and rivers dyed green (shout-out to Chicago where My School Dance is based!) Our students can definitely benefit from learning more about the holiday and how it is celebrated – on both sides of the pond.
St. Patrick’s Day Customs and Traditions
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated as Ireland’s National Holiday, and banks, schools and some businesses close for the day. There are parades throughout the country, and some people observe the day by going to church or spending the day with family.
Here are some lessons and information you can share with your students about this day:
- Visit History.com to find information on who St. Patrick was, the history of the holiday, and other facts and traditions. You can even assign the link on Google Classroom and let students explore, then report back with their findings.
- The NEA (National Education Association) has put together a wonderful list with ideas for free lessons, activities, videos and books to read about St. Patrick’s Day.
Fact vs. Fiction
Debunk the myths about St. Patrick’s day by exploring some sites that delve into the facts and fiction about the holiday. Did you know, for example, that the original color of St. Patrick’s Day was blue? Ask your students to research this, and other interesting tidbits and in teams and report back. Incorporating technology by sharing what they have learned via Google Slides or other digital platforms can be an added bonus.
- 10 Things You Didn’t Know About St. Patrick’s Day will spark discussions about the holiday and how we celebrate it today.
- Send students to History.com to research some myths and truths about St. Patrick’s Day.
- A lighthearted, interactive quiz teaches students while it “quizzes” them on facts about the holiday.
- Time.com has a great article and video about the history of the shamrock as a symbol of St. Patrick’s Day.
Irish Literature & Folktales
St. Patrick’s Day is a great reason to explore Irish literature and folktales with your students. Of course, English teachers likely have more than a few of these authors in their repertoire. Just in case, here are some lists and free links to Irish literature that may help round out your St. Patrick’s Day instruction:
- Check out this comprehensive list of Irish authors, their writing, and what they are most notable for.
- Irish fairy tales, which are also narrated, are great short reads for students filled with Irish folklore.
- More Irish folktales are available on this website, completely free and printable
School Spirit and Whimsical Celebrations
Now for the rainbows, leprechauns, and pots of gold I promised. St. Patrick’s Day is a self-designated spirit day, as students are most likely going to wear green anyways to avoid the dreaded St. Patrick’s Day pinch. As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
- Enlist the ASB, Activities, or student leadership/culture organizations you may have on campus to promote the day with posters, announcements, and social media messages. Give out prizes in various categories: most original and most school spirit, for example.
- Do a door decorating contest, again using your student leaders to spread the word. Prizes encourage participation!
- Food – while fish and chips in your math class may not be feasible, what about another classic: Irish soda bread. Many grocery stores sell it around this time of year. Or, give out a recipe like this one and have students work in teams to bake a loaf at home and bring it in to share. Offer lucky Irish extra credit for participation.
Having a St. Patrick’s Day dance or event?! Manage it for free with My School Dance!
Written by: Angela O’Brien