Alabama school transforms into Disney World for a day

Published 5:18 am Sunday, December 19, 2021

Students at Oscar Adams Elementary School were greeted with a winter surprise from their teachers on the morning of Dec. 13. They learned they would be traveling to Walt Disney World for the day — in their own school.

Linda Franklin, a second-grade teacher and organizer of the day, transformed the school’s gymnasium into a miniature version of the famed theme park in what the school called “Mickey Day,” which allowed students to experience Disney magic from their own classroom.

“Last year, I had a student who did not speak any English and I wanted to do something neat and inspiring to him,” Franklin said. “It started as a second-grade makeover day and it just grew into a whole school activity. We just had so many people interested in participating, and it just grew into this.”

School Principal Tomasina Smitherman said that it was presented as a schoolwide idea because of how theme oriented the second-grade classes are.

“They do all kinds of themed days for their students, such as Starbucks Day,” she added.

Teachers decorated doors and bulletin boards with their favorite Disney characters to get their students into the spirit of the day.

Students were given Mickey or Minnie ears to wear around the gym as they took pictures with the famous mice, a pirate from the Pirates of the Caribbean and Santa Claus himself.

The kids also met with several Disney princesses, courtesy of the Gadsden City High School Titan Danceline and Jacksonville State University’s chapter of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority. Even Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen” made an appearance to sing “Let it Go” with all of the kids.

“We have been able to participate in some virtual rides on the computer, so the students got to see what it would feel like to be on a roller coaster.” Franklin said. “We also had a train that the students would actually be able to get on and ride around the school just as a fun experience.”

She said they chose to let the kids experience Disney World in this way because many of their students either come from different countries and have never heard of the park, or they would likely never get to experience it for themselves.

“We really enjoy giving our students the opportunity to experience things they may not get to,” Franklin added. “I tried to think of things that they would not necessarily get to experience.”

Smitherman said the day wasn’t just magical for students, but also for the faculty and staff.

“Sometimes we take for granted those moments that make our time as educators worth it,” she said. “To see our students smile and continue to talk about what happened on Monday makes it all worth it.”

Franklin thanked several sponsors who helped with the event, including a $250 donation from the Rainbow City Publix and a donation of 30 pizzas from Little Caesar’s. She also extended gratitude to all the volunteers, school staff members and Smitherman for helping put on the event.

She said two special sponsors from Colorado, Stacey True and Cindy Mues, set up a GoFundMe to help raise the money they needed to stage the event and set up the various artwork seen within the gym.

“They don’t even know us, yet they took the time to set up their fundraiser and to do all of this,” she said, “We’re extremely grateful for them.”

Franklin said the big takeaway she hopes students have is that they see just how much their teachers and staff love and care about them.

“We really do love them and we want them to be able to have experiences to draw from so that they can relate to other people’s experiences in a way,” she said. “Any opportunity we can take to really give them an experience, we really try to do that.”