Vocabulary Day portraits display students’ “love of words”

Jun 8, 2022

MARION – Visitors to Sippican School this month will notice an interesting collection of photographs lining the walls.

Over 300 portraits of students in word-themed costumes from the school’s Vocabulary Day are on display, taken as part of what photographer Corinna Raznikov describes as “a large art project” that helps raise money for the school’s library.

Vocabulary Day at Sippican School, which was held earlier this school year, could be described as a festival of learning. Students and teachers show up to school in costume, dressed as different words, partake in a scavenger hunt, and even strut in the auditorium for a fashion show.

Vocabulary Day is an 18-year tradition at the school and the creation of third-grade teacher Paula McKeen, who is retiring this year.

After reading the children’s book “Miss Alaineus” by Deb Frasier, where children in a classroom dress up as different words and parade around the halls, McKeen was inspired to bring the event to her school.

“There is nothing more enjoyable than seeing children show their love of words through the creation of costumes,” said McKeen.

Raznikov has been involved for the past nine Vocabulary Days, and comes into the school to take portraits of each child on the day.

Parents can purchase group photos of the class or more prints of photos, and the proceeds benefit the school library. Over the years, Raznikov has raised over $18,000 for new children’s books at The Sippican School.

However, Raznikov was totally unprepared for her first Vocabulary Day.

Raznikov had missed the memo, and her son Harry Wisner showed up to school without a costume.

“It was a nightmare,” she said. “But they made Harry a costume. That just shows the kind of school this is, they make sure everyone is included.”

Taking inspiration from the floral pattern on Wisner’s clothing, teachers helped him dress up as the word “floral” so that he could take part in the festivities.

Wisner, like his mother, is a photographer and artist. A tenth-grader at Old Rochester Regional High School, he also takes classes at Rhode Island School of Design. Since he turned 11, Wisner has also taken time every year to help his mom with the Vocabulary Day portrait project.

“I was only planning to do this until Harry left the fifth grade,” said Raznikov.

But Wisner told his mom that it wasn’t over. He volunteered to resume helping with the shooting and editing, telling his mom that he really wanted to keep doing it. So, the tradition continued.

The school’s librarian, Jessica Barrett, said that this project has helped her purchase books that the kids request themselves, and she keeps a suggestion box in the library.

“The money from this project helps keep the library well-stocked and full of what they want to read,” she said.