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West Jordan Journal

One school, seven houses

Nov 03, 2022 03:22PM ● By Jet Burnham

Each month, the students and staff of Columbia Elementary meet for an assembly, and instead of sitting by class and grade level, they sit with their school House, wear their House colors and cheer for their House in House competitions.

Columbia Elementary is one school with seven Houses. Every student, teacher, aide, lunch worker, office worker, custodian and part time sweeper has been sorted into one of the seven school Houses.

“We are super excited about the House system,” said Principal Abe Yospe. “We are hoping it builds community, leadership, teamwork and belonging. We are also hoping it helps curb bullying.”

Each House has a name, color, characteristic, constellation, plant, animal and House crest (designed by teacher Kymberli Cosner of Dawn House.) Because of Columbia’s science focus—the school was named after the Columbia Space Shuttle—each House is named after a space probe (Perseverance, Curiosity, Cassini, Juno, Mariner, Phoenix, Stardust and Dawn). House symbols are based on constellations, nebulas, galaxies and stars.

The House characteristics of service, innovation, optimism, courage, friendship, unity, integrity and success were selected based on the responses to last year’s school community survey.

“They chose the values that they felt like were the most important,” said instructional coach Sandy King (of Juno House), who heads the program.

King has implemented the House program, based on Ron Clark Academy’s model, at a classroom level and at a grade level. But Columbia Elementary is the first school in Jordan School District to adapt the program at the school level, King said.

Each month, one House is featured, and its students and teachers are highlighted for ways they have represented their House values or earned points for their House.

Students compete to earn House Points, which are awarded by teachers for good behavior, citizenship and academic performance, so that every student has the opportunity to help raise their House’s standings. While there is friendly competition between the Houses to earn House points and the House Trophy, school unity is the ultimate goal of the program.

“We’re trying to build relationships and not let any of our kids fall through the cracks,” King said.

Students widen their social circles by meeting with their Houses each Friday for student-led character lessons and by sitting with their Houses during monthly assemblies.

“They’re able to see each other in the lunchroom and at House meetings on Friday,” fourth grade teacher Jessica Hacking (of Perseverance House) said. “They’re able to sit by each other and have that opportunity to create new connections with other students at other grade levels.”

Yospe (of Juno House) said just a few months into the school year, the program has already successfully increased school spirit and unity; students are greeting each other in the hallways and looking out for each other on the playground.

“The older grades are interacting with the younger grades, which never happened before,” Yospe said.

Teachers have been touched to see the intergrade interactions. The program has also helped teachers get to know students and teachers from other grades they normally wouldn’t interact with, which further unifies the school, Hacking said.

The program has the potential to positively impact academics, behavior and school culture, Yospe said.

“It’s a great program to help kids understand the emotional part of school—helping each other,” he said. “Rather than putting each other down and bullying, they’re lifting each other up.”  λ