Rituals and Education – Denfeld High School: A school full of Spirit and Tradition – by Kyle Dosan. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Rituals and Education – Denfeld High School: A school full of Spirit and Tradition – by Kyle Dosan. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

If one ever gets the chance to drive around West Duluth, it will not take them long to notice the big brick school with a clock tower that stands more than one-hundred feet tall. This building is the one and only Duluth Denfeld High School, home of the Denfeld Hunters. Duluth Denfeld, which is normally just referred to as Denfeld by alumni and present students has been around since the early twentieth century. For a school that has been around for such a long time, it has many traditions that have been carried out and practiced throughout the years. As a graduate from the hallowed halls of Denfeld in 2015, I am happy to share with you the traditions, old and new, of this historic building. At the beginning of a new school year one fun filled week called “Spirit Week” ensues. Just about every high school has a Spirit Week, but the 5 day festivities that capture school spirit and excitement truly sets Denfeld far apart from any run of the mill spirit week.

Starting on the second to last Thursday in September the Homecoming Court is announced, along with what activities and dress up days will consume Spirit Week. From dressing up in costumes to class color day, there are three days that make the Homecoming Spirit Week at Denfeld such a blast. On Wednesday of Spirit Week each student is instructed to wear blaze orange and ‘camo’ to school and following into the nighttime there is an all school bonfire at Merritt Park in West Duluth. Huge wooden crates are brought onto the softball field in the park and the fire is started by the Duluth Fire Department. Denfeld is the only school in the ISD 709 district allowed to have a bonfire. It is a privilege and the teachers and staff reiterate this to every student because Merritt Park is right in the middle of a neighborhood, and we were reminded to respect not only the park, but everyone in the community. At one point during the bonfire, the seniors will split up into two groups and play the game called Red Rover. For those of you who are not familiar with Red Rover it is a pretty simple (yet dangerous) game. There are two teams (usually named team 1 and 2) that stand about forty feet apart from each other and each team stands shoulder to shoulder, creating a chain link fence while locking arms. The teams will take turns calling out a few names and the selected people must run and try to break the wall of the opposing team, if the people fail to break the wall they must join the opposing team. If one of the runners breaks the chain of the opposing team they must select two people from the opposing team and bring them over to their team. When one team has a shortage of players they must rush and try to break the chain of the opposing team and if they fail to do so they lose.

kyleddenfeld1

(Picture of some of the senior class of 2015 at the school bonfire)

The day after the bonfire is “dress your best day” and when the Homecoming King and Queen are selected. My senior year I was fortunate to be on the Homecoming Court and was crowned the Homecoming King. The last day of spirit week is Maroon and Gold Day, which if you couldn’t guess are Denfeld’s school colors. The halls are decorated in maroon and gold streamers and posters with the students decked out with their maroon and gold clothing. Toward the end of the day everyone gathers into the gym where the pep band plays various songs, a maroon and gold contest is held and the most spirited Hunter decked out in maroon and gold wins, along with the football players being introduced and have a funny dance, choreographed by the dance team to pump every student up for the homecoming game. Crazy skits and throwing pies into faculty members faces also highlight some of the fun to be had on homecoming week. Right after school gets out that Friday of Homecoming there is a tailgate in the parking lot prior to the football game. I have to admit the student government at my high school came up with some funny and clever dress up days that made spirit weeks such a blast.

kyleddenfeld2

(Picture of the 2015 Homecoming Court)

One other tradition that helps Denfeld stand out is the all school “Lip Dub.” This is a new tradition that started in twenty-fourteen. A Lip Dub is a video where a group of people lip sync a song and show off the many sports and clubs of the school. Don’t worry I will leave a link down below for you all to see Denfeld’s lip dubs. Now there was a reason for the making of the lip dubs; back in twenty-fourteen members of the senior class who were in a club called Junior Rotary, were instructed to create a project that includes the whole student body and shows off what being a Hunter is all about. In the video, various students lip synced to the song “It’s Always a Good Time” by Owl City and Carley Rae Jepsen throughout the school showing the interior of Denfeld, leading to the magnificent auditorium towards the end of the video and every student singing the school song. Ever since the inaugural lip dub there have been three additional videos, two of which are with the whole student body and the other is by another club called Link Crew, a club that help freshmen have a smooth transition into their first year of high school. I was a junior when the first lip dub was created, and the best way I could describe getting every student and club into their little section of the school was controlled chaos. It was very fun and exciting to be part of this process because this video brought school spirit to a whole new level that I never thought was possible. Even former Duluth mayor Don Ness and now new Duluth Mayor Emily Larson have appeared in the lip dubs.

One last tradition that is pretty overlooked is a chant between the seniors and freshmen before every school assembly in the auditorium. It first must be noted that there is a big balcony that all freshmen have to sit on with one of their assigned classes. All the seniors sit right in the front rows of the auditorium, and it is quite a big deal to be a senior and have a spot in the senior section. Before the school assembly starts, all of the senior class stands up and chants “Freshmen on the shelf!”, while the freshmen respond with, “Seniors in the Cellar!”, and this chant will go on for about a minute. The staff is fine with this and encourage the freshmen to yell back at the seniors. When I was a freshman, I admit I was kind of leery of taking part in this chant just because this happened on the first day of school and I was sort of nervous. As the school year progressed I got used to it and tried to yell as loud as I could. As a senior it was fun to start off the chant, and in a way come full circle with the tradition.

From the homecoming spirit week to the new tradition of lip dubs, to the chant before each school assembly, this shows how big traditions play a role in schools. Yes, there are other traditions that I left out like formal dances, but this is typical for any school. I wanted to show the different traditions that make my alma mater unique. Just remember that tradition plays a big role with the identity of a family, friend group and schools. Our parents grew up with traditions and have tried to instill them with us. Traditions are something to be cherished because as the years change traditions can easily die out. Looking back on my school and even my family I have a greater appreciation for the role traditions play in my life.

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Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

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35 Comments

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35 responses to “Rituals and Education – Denfeld High School: A school full of Spirit and Tradition – by Kyle Dosan. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

    • Paige Perreira

      This was a super fun read Kyle! I can definitely relate to your story, since my high school did something very similar to this. We did a full spirit week and our student council always came up with the most fun themes for each day. We also had the homecoming court, and the whole week was filled with activities that made school much more tolerable. It’s interesting to hear about how different high schools participate in homecoming, if they do at all. From my experience, bigger high schools seem to have more elaborate spirit weeks, while small schools may not have one at all. Thanks for sharing your personal experience!

  1. Der Yang

    Thank you for sharing Kyle Dosan! I enjoyed reading your essay very much, as it reminded me all of the traditions held at my high school also. I am from the Twin Cities and attended Robbinsdale Cooper High School [The Coop]. Regarding all of your school traditions, the one tradition that stood out to me the most was the bonfire at Merritt Park. According to my four years at the Coop, we never had anything like that. It definitely sounds like a fun and lively activity. Whether I would participate in an activity like that would be questionable though, as I am more of an introvert than extrovert. Anyway, congratulations on winning Homecoming King! Now, I am left with longing my high school years again, the years that I dread the most.

  2. Michaela Campbell

    It is always interesting to hear about the experiences and traditions other schools have in the local area. I graduated from Two Harbors High School, and had cousins that went to Denfeld during their high school years, and as you’ve described they had a few fun experiences to talk about regarding high school, spirit days, etc. Some of the things you’ve described I remember doing during my high school days, such as the awesome dress up days that student council thinks of, etc. But, I loved hearing about your bonfire tradition that you have every year! I did not know that Denfeld was the only high school that collaborated with the Duluth Fire Dept. That is a tradition that I hope is carried on for years to come, along with the recent invention of the lip dubs. Thank you for sharing some of your experiences!

  3. Matthew Breeze

    Thank you for sharing this and telling us about your high schools traditions. I have many a happy memory about high school rituals and traditions as well as some that I thought were a little strange, but took part in anyway. I think that now that we are in college we may forget some of our high school traditions. I thank you for jogging my memory and reminding me of the good times I had over those four years. So often we think of high school as a terrible time or a time of great change, which it often is, but we should try and remember the good stuff and the stuff we thought was odd. I may need to take some time to reminisce about the good old days so thank you for that.

  4. Bryce Gadke

    Oh the wonderful traditions of high school, anything from the most basic dances to the more unusual and unique traditions. I find it fascinating that with traditions two different things occur: the student body (mostly the seniors for spirit week) follow many traditions to a tee, but also try to one up the previous classes. A lot of fond memories came from high school that will not be soon forgotten. The immense amount of changes that occur during the high school years are sometimes odd and difficult to look at old pictures, but the beauty is that the experiences and traditions are what made you who you are.

  5. Francesca Do

    Thank you for sharing your traditions in high school. I love learning about different traditions, whether if it is cultural or not because it has values and gives meaning to someone that cherishes the rituals that occur yearly or even daily. Looking back in my high school I felt connected to everybody whenever we did our homecoming traditions as if we were one. I believe it is important to pass down traditions to the next generation, so they can experience the belongingness that brings people together. I appreciate you sharing your story for it brought back happy memories of all the good times I had with my friends during high school.

  6. Alexa Lee

    I think it is great when people take the time to think about their school’s traditions and philosophize about what they mean like you have done. I, too, think that school traditions are great because they bring unity to the school – no matter how diverse the student body, staff, and faculty may be. I feel like once some has done them a lot, it just becomes sort of normal and internalized that they don’t even seem like traditions anymore. That is why I think it is so important that you’ve taken the time to think about traditions in your life and notice them for what they are. If we don’t do this, then we may not even realize that we are passing down something special to younger generations – perhaps even sacred. Even something as simple as a senior to freshman chant could be sacred, because it only involves those people there at that time and it is a very unifying experience. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Grace Young

    This was a really fun article to read! It is very interesting to hear about the different traditions your high school has. I think your spirit week is especially unique. It is really cool that you have the same dress up days each year. I have never heard about that because most schools change up the days each year. I think having set days each year would be cool because you could see people’s personal styles change over the years with the tradition remaining the same. I also think it is awesome that you are allowed to have a school bonfire. That would be such an important part of the culture of Denfeld. Thank you for sharing pieces of your culture with us!

  8. Rachel Reicher

    Thank you Kyle for sharing! My high school traditions are quite similar to yours but also slightly different. Those are memories that will never fade and some things we can look back on for good times as older adults. I agree, as a freshman things can be very intimidating and it can be a great reward to be a senior. It is simple goals, like making it to senior year, that can keep students going in the direction of success. Your traditions are like no other and that is something that is important to keep through your high school. It seems that they are doing a great job in doing that and I hope other students through many years are able to have the great experience you did. My mother attended Duluth East and it would have been cool to attend the same high school as her to see if the traditions had stuck through the years. Although family traditions such as recipes, celebrations, and much more, are important to keep through generations, experiences outside of the home and family can have an impact on a person.

  9. McKenna Holman

    This article brought a lot of memories to mind as I was reading! I am from NE Wisconsin and its a very small town area. A lot of the traditions you talk about are things we do as well! During homecoming week, or spirit week, we also have a bonfire! It’s always a fun time for all the students to get together after a volleyball game! We also have the blaze orange/camo day at school. When you go to a small town school like I did, there are always a lot of hunters in the area (myself included!) so practically everyone participates in this day!

  10. Dylan Brovick

    Reading this article reminded me of all the great traditions and fun things i got to do at my high school. I wish my school could have done a bonfire like Denfeld that sounds like a great way to get the school involved in a community event. The best thing i got to do was drive my car in the homecoming parade with the king and queen in the back. I got to do this because they were short on cars and my crappy Geo Tracker had a removable top so I decided I better not miss the chance to drive it in a parade. High school is a great time for a lot of people and I believe that is because there are so many ways to get involved and be around people you like. My school did a great job of incorporating as many people as possible into so many different activities. It created a great atmosphere for strangers and friends to have fun at the same time.

  11. Kathleen Reicher

    Thanks for sharing, Kyle! Your high school sounds like a fun place. The school bonfire was really interesting to me. I’m pretty sure that my high school would never have let us have a class bonfire. We were allowed to go on a senior trip, but if the trip had involved fire, I’m not sure it would have been allowed. We were allowed to have a school water balloon fight on the last day of school, though. That is one of the traditions that I remember most from my high school. Everyone would spend the few days before the last day of school filling up water balloons. You would have to buy the water balloons early because they were usually sold out in our little town store by the week before the water balloon fight. We would pack up the water balloons in coolers and load them into our cars on the last day of school. Then as soon as the last bell rang, we all would run out to our cars and the water balloon fight would begin. It was really fun! Traditions like these are fun to look back on.

  12. Caroline Grube

    This article definitely brought me back to high school! I am a freshman in college so it was not long ago at all that I was a senior at my small high school in the middle of nowhere southwestern Minnesota. We also have all of the typical traditions like prom and pep fests, etc. However, my school has an even more different tradition that will be coming to somewhat of a close this year. Nine years ago this month, a school bus was t-boned by a van and tipped onto an oncoming truck killing four students. One being a very close friend and another being a classmate of mine. As you can imagine, this was a HUGE impact on my school and my personal life. This event started what we know as “Our Journey of Hope” at Lakeview (my high school). Our Journey of Hope has brought in many different speakers and entertainment for the students to enjoy on the anniversary of this tragedy. The kitchen also bakes cupcakes on this day frosted with the four students’ favorite colors. Because the graduating seniors this year are the last class to have lost a classmate, the speakers and entertainment and activities that we do on this day will soon be stopped. However, the school will continue to serve the cupcakes in memory of our lost classmates. Traditions are a very important thing in bringing people together and giving them something to share. This tradition has brought me closer to all of my classmates.

  13. Nouqouja Yang

    Thank you for sharing such fun memories. As I was reading through this, I also thought about my high school and our traditions. We also had very similar things that we did regularly. I had rallies, spirit week, class chants, and many more just like yours. Sometimes I think about my high school years and how I was. Reminiscing, I wish I would have been more involved in events and clubs but in the end, I’m glad I was who I was in high school. It got me here today and I did many things I was very proud of. I totally agree that traditions are apart of you. Even if it was just for school, you went along with it and it was fun. It created a kind of spirit inside of you. Thanks for sharing! It definitely made me miss the high school years.

  14. Kendra Brunn

    Kyle, this was so fun to read! It definitely brought me back to my favorite memories from high school. My school also had a chant between the freshmen and the seniors and although it was overlooked like yours, it was so fun! Being in college and making a whole new group of friends has been awesome, but sometimes it is nice to sit down and think of the fun times I had with my high school friends. I also really liked that you shared the history behind the “lip dub”. It sounds like such a great idea and it is so cool that you got to see the first one. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Mariah Koenig

    I really loved reading this. Your involvement and spirit in your school is awesome. It reminded me of all of the fun things we did in my high school: home of the Tech Tigers. I think the bonfire that your school has every year is a really cool, unique way to bring everyone together and have fun. One thing that my school did was at every football game, the student section had a different theme. Some themes we did were Hawaiian, sailor, zombies, cops and robbers, and during big rivalry games, extreme tigers. Extreme tigers was where everyone wore orange and black and painted their faces and went full on tiger pride. Throughout high school, I had a part-time job where I worked a lot of hours. On one hand, making the money to save up was really nice, but on the other hand, I wish I was more involved in my school and took more pride in it.

  16. Highschool rituals are such a great way to feel a sense of togetherness, and for students to take their mind off various issues. Rituals are especially universal among highschools. Students and faculty participate in various activities that bring everyone together. My highschool had very similar traditions that everyone partook in throughout the year. It is certainly interesting to see all the different festivities schools undergo. Still there is the same underlying theme between all highschool rituals of acting as a community.

  17. Elaina Wald

    This post brought a wave of nostalgia I don’t typically feel for my high school days. This was a fun and lighthearted read that made me reflect on my own alma mater’s traditions. It’s clear that geography and culture play a role in a high school’s traditions. Being the “Hunters” and dressing in camouflage and blaze orange in an indicator of the culture of the area. My school would cancel days for state hockey tournaments and have an annual principal dance off. You never really realize your own traditions are unusual until you take a step back and look with fresh eyes. I have a feeling it will only get more fun and at the same time melancholy to reflect on these high school experiences.

  18. Awesome story! High school was one of the best times of my life and I can see that it was for you as well. I liked hearing about the chanting between the freshmen and seniors. You gotta yell at those freshmen some how haha. The red rover game and the bon fire sound like a blast, and I wish my high school would have done something like that!!

  19. Joel Scheuerlein

    This is an incredible read, because I too went to a high school with much tradition. One of our many traditions was we were not called freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior, but rather we were called sexta, quinta, quarta, and tertia. These are Latin names that that have stood the test of time since the start of my high school in 1895. We also were required to take Latin class in my high school like every student had before us. So I found it to be a great experience to learn of another schools tradition.

  20. Andrew Bailey

    Kyle, thank you for sharing some parts of your high school experience. As I was reading your article I was reminiscing in the high school days. It is very interesting to think about traditions my own high school has such as each class builds their own float for the homecoming week parade. This parade is great bonding for the students and builds camaraderie and a competitive spirit between the classes. I have actually watched Denfeld’s lip dub because two years ago my high school was thinking about putting one together and we were looking at examples online. I think it is also interesting that although Denfeld may have a very spirited spirit week, other high schools have these same traditions too. I think it is very common in the Midwest to have football games during homecoming week a long with a homecoming court and dress up theme days. It is pretty cool to look at these cultural patterns and compare them from school to school and state to state.

  21. William Brennhofer

    it is always interesting to hear of other high schools storied traditions. I come from the oldest high school in Minnesota and that in of itself is a huge honor for me. But it is always fun to hear of the rituals that make other school so special. I love the idea of the senior-freshman chant, just helps everyone get in to the flow of the year. The idea of community in your high school is also something to be proud of in times where not everyone gets that out of high school.

  22. Thomas Landgren

    Thank you for sharing this awesome article! It was great to read this article because it made me think of high school traditions that I haven’t thought about in three years. I remember all of the traditions that we had during spirit weeks and assemblies and your article help jog my memory of some of the more outlandish traditions that always were peculiar to me. Growing up on the East side of Duluth I was actually able to witness one of Denfeld’s pep assemblies and it was very different for me but seeing how spirited everyone got especially the guys decked out in maroon and gold tights with viking helmets showed how people got. Thank for this walk down memory lane!

  23. Hanna McLevish

    Denfeld is such a pretty school, full of history I’m sure! I remember when I was in high school and we had so many traditions. Themed homecoming week was my favorite. The whole school participated. It went something like, Monday- America Monday, Tuesday- Tie dye Tuesday, Wednesday- Pajama day, Thursday- Camo day, Friday- Sprit day. On camo day, only the seniors could wear blaze orange and if underclassmen did, they would get into trouble. You have to wait your turn. I think it’s funny how little things like that can be seen as a huge deal in High school. It happened every year, and it was tradition.

  24. Wow, sounds like a fun high school! My high school was honestly pretty lame when it came to traditions. Homecoming at the pep-rally was as school spirited we got when most people wore our school colors and had the grade chant, which the seniors always won. I am glad though to hear that other schools use these tools to bring the school together even for just a day. Thanks for bringing back a few fun memories! Cheers!

  25. It sounds like attending Denfeld was very enjoyable for you and that its traditions meant a lot to you as you left them through the rite of passage “graduation.” How do you feel these traditions shaped your high school experience? What do you think you learned from performing them? It is funny that the seniors and freshman chant at each other during assemblies. You mentioned you felt that in doing this as a freshman and senior you came full circle, but do you feel this shapes the relationship between the seniors and freshman? If so, how do you think it does/did for you?

  26. Ellen Hansen

    High school spirit weeks have always had a place in my heart, too. As early as first grade, students would start dressing up in their high school colors during homecoming week, decorating ‘homecoming pants’- a practice which repeated itself every year of a kid’s life until high school graduation (Seriously: Type ‘Homecoming Pants’ into google images… All you’ll see are Lakeville North or South colors). Practices like these have a way of drawing people together, and tying us to those who came and started these generations decades before. while these traditions wear the front of crazy antics, they have a way of building the mythology of a certain institution. We see this every year here at CSS, to, with the annual Al-Bob hunt. Even if these aren’t ultimately shared, practice for practice, across cultures, the idea is universal: Repeated rituals (crazy as they may be) are used to build communal loyalty and a sense of belonging.

  27. Skyler Long

    After reading this article it made me think of my high school days and homecoming or spirit week. I also found it interesting that this school is about 10 minutes from CSS. I liked your article very much and agree that the practice of tradition at a school only brings the school closer together and people enjoy it. It doesn’t matter the culture because everyone comes together in the same high school. Every year when this happens in high schools across the nation these traditions or rituals build the community and trust among the community and students. I think it would be interesting to how many different high schools use traditions and rituals to bring the community and students closer together.

  28. Sarah Plankers

    I think the majority of us who were raised in the midwest can relate to a spirit week like the one you mentioned in your article. However, I don’t think many of us stop to realize that it is indeed a ritualistic tradition we often carry out similar to the alumni who have graduated before us. I find it interesting that humans can have so many different facets of their lives that consist of traditions and rituals, friends, family, work or school can all have unique rituals that seem normal to us but are indeed something to marvel at. Your article provides a good insight for your passion for your school as well as the value of rituals and that although we may not be able to do them like we used to, perhaps like in high school, we can remember them and cherish them forever.

  29. Amanda greene

    This article brought me back to my high school days. Although you went to a different high school than I did, we have many similarities. Our rituals consisted of spirit week and chanting at our pep fests as well. I wish we were allowed to have a bonfire though. I also think it’s really cool that the beautiful building is a high school. I was shocked when I first heard that.

  30. It’s always fun to hear and read about other schools’ traditions. I was placed in Denfeld for one of my teaching field experiences, and got to see some of the Spirit Week activities last year. I find it interesting that most schools do football homecoming because my high school does theirs during basketball season. Homecoming Week/Spirit Week is a very important part of my school’s culture and brings all the classes 8-12 together. I can see that Denfeld has a rich school culture!

  31. Thank you for sharing Kyle! It was very interesting to read about all the different traditions your school has, sounds very fun. I must say it is quite different from the high school I went to back home, somethings very much surprised me. Throwing pies at faculties’ faces definiatly takes the cake though. I cannot even imagine that happening without very serious consequences. But I know it is all in the sprit of fun and community, which I believe are very important to have some of in any institution to ensure people have a sense of appreciation and a common identity.

  32. Sheila Iteghete

    Spirit week was also one that looked forward to during my high school days and I am quite saddened that this spirit is not exhibited here. Thank you for sharing your experience and I am sure it will always be a beautiful memory for you. I do love that this school has been able to reignite the rituals of this week or create new ones for everyone who goes through to have close to similar experiences. Congratulations on being crowned Homecoming king hopefully you were opportune to go back and hand it over to the new king. I’d day that these rituals are very like that of my high school with different chants, but we did seat as per our grade, which was interesting as the years went back just you mentioned.

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