Marrington Elementary is a rather colorful school.
From red, white and blue on Mondays to red, blue, orange, purple and green on Fridays, students and staff have a unique way of showing school spirit, leadership and unification through a couple of weekly traditions that students and teachers are continuing — even through virtual learning.
Principal Jennifer Thielmann and Assistant Principal Lindsey Melcher have been active in recent years in continuing “Marrington Mondays” and “House Fridays”.
Melcher shared the background on both Marrington Mondays and House Fridays in a recent e-mail.
Marrington Mondays started after Thielmann became principal five years ago. For the last four years, Spirit Days were previously held on Friday, until the school implemented House Friday.
On Mondays, students are encouraged to dress in either Marrington Elementary shirts or wear red, white and blue. Teachers would previously submit the number of students dressed for Marrington Monday to the school’s PTO, and the class with the most spirit received a popcorn party and recognition on the afternoon announcements.
With the switch to virtual learning, Melcher said parents are still submitting photos of their children, which are then posted to Facebook.
The house system is new this year. Last year, a group consisting of Melcher, Thielmann and three teachers went to a three-day professional development event at the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta. The house system is an integral part of their school community; Melcher said they loved the energy, camaraderie and character development that the house system brought to their school.
“We brainstormed how that would look at MNE and how would that translate to our students,” she said. “Since our school is located on Joint Base Charleston, students enroll all throughout the year and come from all over the world. We wanted a way for students to feel ‘at home’ when they come to us and to immediately feel a sense of belonging.”
In addition, they also wanted the system to mirror the character development that school counselor Ann Schuler was already implementing. They began discussing ideas at Leadership Team meetings to develop the “why” and “how” of the house system for 2019-2020.
The first step in developing the house system was to choose the houses and develop crests, animals, songs, etc.
The school’s Leadership Team, who had all attended RCA in the summer, initially created the houses – Integrity, Courage, Resilience, Compassion and Loyalty.
“We liked the words because we felt they represented the military and military child well,” Melcher said. “Those are all characteristics that we see in our own students at MNE.”
The team then researched animals and colors that went with each word.
Courage: a lion and the color red
Integrity: a bald eagle and the color blue
Resiliency: a moose and the color green
Compassion: a dolphin and the color purple
Loyalty: a dog and the color orange
The team then spent a couple of staff development days further developing the House System and getting teachers involved. They had a big “Spin Party” where all staff members – teachers, custodians, cafeteria workers, office staff, etc. – spun a wheel to see what house they landed in. This would be their forever-house. They then got into their house groups and created a flag, song and chant to represent their house.
The school eventually sent the flag creations to a company that turned them into real flags to hang around the school.
Staff also created a “point system” and a way that students could earn points for their house. They broke their points into two categories: “Good Character” and “Outstanding Performance.” Students can earn points for going above and beyond at school.
At Christmas, each teacher received a house shirt and a vinyl name sticker to go on their door in the color of their house.
During Christmas break, Thielmann and Melcher did a school transformation. They hung the house flags and put colorful banners up in the hallways and cafeteria. They asked every staff member to wear their house shirt/colors on the first day back to school in January.
Melcher said the students had a lot of questions upon their return.
“They were dying to find out more,” she said. “It was a very exciting time.”
From January 9-10 they had grade level spin ceremonies where each student came on stage and spun the wheel. They were then welcomed into their house by staff members (and older students if applicable) who cheered them on.
In February, the school rolled out its Point System using the RCAHousePoints App. Students began earning points and a leaderboard was projected onto the television in the cafeteria for the kids to see. Every Friday, the students deck out in house colors – Melcher said some students really go crazy with colored tu-tus, hair dye, socks, ribbons and more.
The school is continuing to do “House Friday” through virtual learning. Each day teachers submit two students who have been “All Star E-Learners.” The school gives those students a shout-out on Facebook and they each get a house point for Outstanding Performance.
On select Fridays, the school does House Away from Home Day. On this day, parents wear their house shirts or colors. Parents submit a picture through Facebook and the school posts it, and also tallies up how many students in each house wore shirts and award the house with those points.
The school also continues to share the current leaderboard with families via Facebook. Teachers are able to give students points for Good Character and Outstanding Performance at any time.
Schuler is creating short videos highlighting each house and character word. She wears that house’s shirt, does a short mini-lesson on the character word and sings the house song. These are pushed out to students via Google Classroom, e-mail or Seesaw. They are also posted on Facebook.
In her first video, Schuler donned a red “Team Courage” shirt, gave a little background on House Fridays and performed the Courage house’s team cheer. In her second video she highlighted Integrity. (see video)
“Our students have so much school pride and it just makes us so happy to see that happening even when we aren’t physically together,” Melcher said in her e-mail. “Seeing their smiling faces keeps us energized and motivated to come up with new and fun ways to connect with our families.”