100 Days of School: A Wacky Celebration Goes Viral (2024)

You know who the Pinterest moms are. The ones who pack camera-ready lunches for their children with lovely handwritten notes. The parents who are ready and available for every volunteer activity and whose homes are the neighborhood clubhouse.

And then there is me. I’m the mom who counts it as a victory if we leave the house each morning fed and wearing clean clothes.

So when my child was asked to dress like a 100-year-old man this week to celebrate the 100th day of school, I headed my Facebook page to gripe. Where did THIS made-up “holiday” come from?

Turns out, marking this “special” day of the school year has been around for a while. As the parent of a kindergarten student, I hadn’t experienced this. But my friends with older children, as well as teachers and principals who responded to me on Twitter, shared their “100 Days” experiences from around the country. Here’s just a small sample:

It has been around for years. The 100 days fits into the understanding of numbers to 100 in Grade 1 - a major milestone in numeracy. It's old hat for school-folk, but new for parents with 6 yos! Last year, it fell on Feb. 14th which was also Ash Wednesday. #CathSchoolTrifecta

— Jennifer Speer (@myjennspeer) February 14, 2019

At our school k-2 celebrates the 100th day and 5th grade celebrates their 1000th day of school! We do STEM activities, exercises, and a parade! pic.twitter.com/xnUZvE8HWa

— Jennifer Campbell (@MissCampbell__) February 14, 2019


-- Nathan Kalasho (@NathanKalasho) February 14, 2019

Pinterest is filled with pictures of cute costumed kids. A national party supply store in my neighborhood even had a display area of “100 Days” themed gear—"grandma” and “grandpa” outfits, gray wigs, fake pipes, inflatable walkers, pencils and certificates. Clearly, I have been out of the loop.

100 Counts for a Lot in Math Education

So when did this start? David Barnes, an associate executive director for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, isn’t exactly sure, but he suggests that it comes naturally when early-grade teachers start teaching about the calendar. “That leads into counting days, which leads to the 100th day,” he said. (For older students, many schools have also adopted activities around “Pi Day”, or March 14; the first three numbers of the geometric ratio are 3.14.)

There’s plenty of counting objects on the day and trying to make the number 100 concrete to young children, Barnes said. It’s all meant to show that math is fun and enjoyable. But another element teachers can wrap in is not just counting to 100, but using 100 to talk about the importance of the math concept of place value. The number 1 with no zeroes represents a single object, but because of place value, when 1 is written with additional zeroes it describes a much larger number.

Talking and thinking about the importance of place value offers an additional experience beyond just counting objects, Barnes said. Kids could talk about what grade they’d be in on their 1,000th day of school. They could think about whether they would be in school for 10,000 days.

“We want kids to enjoy math and to enjoy and think with numbers and realize that there’s lots of questions you can ask about this,” Barnes said. “There’s a level of rigor and sensemaking that we would like kids to engage in with mathematics, so that it’s not just rote.”

For more ideas, the organization’s magazine, Teaching Children Mathematics, published an article, 100 Activities for the 100th Day.

So What About the Costumes?

For all the frivolity, the 100th day celebrations do have a problematic side. As a reporter who also writes about children with disabilities, I wasn’t sure what to think about canes and walkers used as props.

It turns out I wasn’t alone. Catherine Sears, a Virginia mother, was taken aback when she saw a young child in her son’s school bent over and using a mock walker. Her infant son was born with a brain injury, and many children with similar injuries need a gait trainer for mobility when they get older.

“I don’t want to sound super uptight or anything,” Sears said. She knows the activities are all meant in fun; her own son created a treasure box of 100 polished stones as part of the school’s 100th day events.

But the dress-up aspect is based in the idea that young children wouldn’t need the same mobility aids used by older people, and that’s not the case. “It’s supposed to be cute to have a 6-year-old using a walker. Humor is when something is the opposite of what you expect it to be,” she said.

But for the mom of a kid with a disability, assistive technology is not incongruous with childhood. “It’s what you expect.”

Last year, three organizations that advocate for older adults drafted a letter for educators pointing out alternatives that can celebrate aging, not mock it. Among their ideas: invite an older person (even a 100-year-old, if they are in the community!) to the school to interact with students, or gather stories about elders or 100-year-olds from students’ families or from books.

“This is something we talk about a lot—are we being too sensitive?” said Penny Cook, the executive director of Pioneer Network, an advocacy organization for providers of long-term care and other services for elders. “But what about the other ‘isms’ out there? To me, ageism is just one of the other ‘isms.”

In contrast, getting rid of the canes, hair curlers and fake wrinkles and choosing a more positive alternative can “introduc[e] children to what aging is all about. They have the opportunity to see the wisdom that aging can bring,” Cook said.

100 Days of School and Beyond

I confessed to Cook that for my son, I just went with the “dress like you’re 100 years old” option. My son’s school offered an alternative—dress in your favorite clothing style in the past 100 years—but that seemed even more complicated. I sent my son off to school with plaid suspenders and a bow tie, drew in some wrinkles with a brow pencil, and added a generous dusting of baby powder to turn his hair “white.”

At the end of the day, he reported that he was one of the few people in his class who dressed for the occasion. And on the 100th day of school, I graduated to Pinterest Mom.

100 Days of School: A Wacky Celebration Goes Viral (1)
Christina A. Samuels

Senior Writer/Editor, Education Week

Christina Samuels formerly covered educational equity for Education Week.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.

100 Days of School: A Wacky Celebration Goes Viral (2024)


Why is it important to celebrate the 100th day of school? ›

Why do we celebrate 100 days of school? This marks a point in the year where students are more than half-way through the 180 day school year. It is a time to reflect on all the learning that has taken place so far.

When did celebrating 100 days of school start? ›

The holiday was started in 1979 in Livermore, California, by teacher Lynn Taylor and is now a significant part of classroom culture and Pinterest board queries across the globe. Taylor celebrated the 100th day of school in her classroom to help children understand the concrete lesson of the number 100.

What grades celebrate 100 days of school? ›

How is the 100th Day of School celebrated? The 100th Day of School is widely celebrated in preschools, kindergartens, and elementary schools as a fun milestone to break up the school year.

What to wear for 100 days of school? ›

Many kids who dress up for the 100th day of school wear centenarian costumes, also known as 100 year old person costumes. Little girls will look cute dressed in floral print dresses paired with comfy cardigan sweaters and spectacles.

What is the celebration of the 100th year? ›

A centenary is the hundredth anniversary of some event.

How long were school days in 1890? ›

The school year was much shorter.

Attendance was just 59 percent. School days typically started at 9 a.m. and wrapped up at 2 p.m. or 4 p.m., depending on the area; there was one hour for recess and lunch, which was called “nooning."

Do you celebrate 100 days? ›

100 Days Celebration Customs And Traditions

While get-togethers are also common at the end of the baby's first month, the 100-day one is preferred because it marks the end of the most vulnerable period for new babies and mums or, in some cases, an end to confinement.

What month is 100 days of school? ›

The 100th day of school will vary by school, but most schools celebrate in the month of February.

Who invented 100 days of school? ›

The First 100th Day of School

Back in 1979, Lynn Taylor, along with her colleagues David Cooper and Mary Hurdlow, celebrated their first 100th day of school. The idea grew from their experience with a program called Math Their Way and an activity called The Days of School Graph.

What happens at a 100 day celebration? ›

At traditional Chinese 100 days celebrations (百日宴), prayers and food will be offered to the ancestors together with the burning of incense to wish the baby good health and protection them from bad spirits. Some families will shave the baby's head, while some have already replaced the ritual with snipping a hair lock.

What cultures celebrate 100 days? ›

People in Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan, and Singapore hold a baby's 100th day as an especially important occasion, and some even consider the 100-day mark as the baby's first birthday.

What is the 1000th day of school? ›

Celebrated in the same timeframe as the 100th Day of School, the 1000th Day of School is just for 5th graders. That is because fifth graders will be celebrating 1000 days in elementary school during the festivities. That's right, 1000 whole days! On average, children spend 180 days at school every year.

What happens on the 100th day of school? ›

The 100th day of school might not be an official holiday, but it holds a place of significance in many schools. It is a time to celebrate the milestone of successfully completing 100 days of learning.

What is the no of school days in America? ›

In the U.S., 180 days of school is most common, but length of school day varies by state. School has started in most of the United States. On average, K-12 public schools will be in session close to 180 days this year, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Education Commission of the States.

Why is it important to celebrate the United Nations Day in school? ›

This holiday celebrates the signing of the charter, or founding document, for the United Nations, an international organization that focuses on world peace. United Nations Day is a day to celebrate the achievements of the UN and focus on the goals for working together to build a better world for everyone.

What is the idea for the 1000th day of school? ›

Your students can collaborate to create a spectacular mural celebrating just how much they have learned in 1,000 days of school. Make a plan for a special snack for your 1,000 day of school.

Why do we celebrate teachers Day in 100 words? ›

Teacher's Day is a special occasion celebrated to honor and appreciate our teachers for their valuable contributions to our education and growth. For children in classes 4 and 5, this day holds great significance as it gives us the opportunity to express our gratitude towards our teachers.

What is the 100 hundredth day of school? ›

When Is the 100th Day of School? After the winter holidays, many schools start anticipating finishing the first 100 days of school. The actual date varies, with most schools reaching the 100th day at the end of January or sometime in early or mid-February.


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