A Colorful Rite of Passage

It’s a well known fact that, over the years, the Seed has gained a reputation as being a “hippie” school.  Our roots as an alternative school in the 70s have certainly fueled this perception.  The school’s emphasis on gardening and saving the earth have also been contributing factors.  Early on we had three- and four-year olds writing letters to senators asking them to clean up the air.  Being listed on Buzzfeed’s list of ten most bizarre schools in the country (http://www.buzzfeed.com/hillaryreinsberg/10-bizarre-schools-from-around-the-country#.vtwrp6aA5) for believing in world peace got more than a few people’s attention. And yes, I’ll admit that during the years I taught 4th and 5th grade, I did my best to make sure my students knew as many Bob Dylan songs as possible.  The Seed has come by its reputation honestly.

Perhaps the most visible and long-lasting remnants of the hippie era are the tie dye t-shirts we make every year.  Although tie dyed shirts have been around the Seed since our first days in the late 70s, we got serious about the process around the turn of the century.  Fifteen years later, dyeing the shirts (and painting tiles) is a well-oiled machine.  Each year is a refinement of the previous one.  Team Tie Dye is a formidable crew.

The way it works is we sell white shirts at the beginning of the school year and families sign up to dye their shirts on the big day.  The most fanatic tie dye fans (many of them members of Team Tie Dye) have been known to purchase a large number of additional white items to enhance their current wardrobes.  Dyes are carefully measured and prepared in handy squirt bottles.  Instructions for how to tie fancy designs are handed out and individual consultations are not uncommon throughout the day of tie dye.  After shirts have had a good soaking in soda ash solution, the floodgate of tie dye enthusiasts is released and the colorful event begins.

This rite of passage for new Seed families, as well as returnees who can’t live without a new tie dye each year, is like no other Seed event.  Families who are new to the process glean tips and advice from seasoned folks.  Some parents like to keep things neat and tidy (as much as you can with tie dye) and end up doing most of their child’s shirt.  Others, especially those who have just come from work, stay out of the way as much as possible and let their kid loose with the squirt bottle.  Some children pool up the dye so heavily that there’s more on the  table than the shirt.  A few take their time, intentionally applying the dye to their shirts.  I’d say the majority love the process of squirting the colors around with little regard for the outcome.  Tall tales from tie dye days past are on the rise as the sun sinks in the west, bringing the day to a close.  The only thing better than this colorful camaraderie is the kids sporting their new shirts on Monday morning, their smiling faces announcing, “Look!  I’m a Seed!”