Jesse Wharton Elementary School in Greensboro, North Carolina, kicked off its new school year in a vibrant and distinctive way that left kindergartners excited and engaged. As students eagerly stepped into their first day of school, they were met with a creative and colorful introduction to a unique team-based system.
The anticipation in the air was palpable as kindergartners gathered to uncover a surprise awaiting them. Each student was handed a plain white box, their eyes widening with curiosity. With a sense of wonder, they gently lifted the lids to reveal a vividly-hued bandana neatly folded within. However, these were no ordinary bandanas – they were color-coded, each shade representing one of four teams that would become an integral part of their school experience at Jesse Wharton.
The idea behind this colorful introduction was to implement a team system that fosters camaraderie, a touch of friendly competition, and the recognition of positive behavior and achievements. Students were divided into four distinct teams, each with its unique color and identity: Green for Thorncroft, Blue for Masai, Purple for Kordofan, and Orange for Rothschild.
While this concept draws parallels to the iconic “houses” in the beloved Harry Potter series, there are notable differences. Rather than a magical sorting, students at Jesse Wharton were assigned to teams at random. However, the teams still provide ample opportunities for students to earn points for their teams through exemplary behavior, good character, and academic accomplishments. At the end of each quarter, the team with the highest points celebrates their collective success.
What sets Jesse Wharton’s approach apart is the thematic naming of the teams. Drawing inspiration from the school’s mascot, the giraffe, the teams are referred to as “towers.” A group of giraffes is fittingly known as a “tower,” and the teams were named Thorncroft, Masai, Kordofan, and Rothschild, aligning with different types of giraffes. This creative choice adds a layer of uniqueness and identity to each team.
This innovative system was developed a few years back when the school was transitioning back to in-person learning after the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal was to create an inviting and connected environment for students, one that would help them reestablish relationships and connections with their peers and educators.
One of the notable aspects of this system is its impact on staff members. Assistant Principal Kerrie Douglas shared that being part of a specific team has encouraged her to lead by example, showcasing the desired character traits and values. This shared identity has also opened doors for interactions between staff and students who belong to the same team. The tower system has provided an avenue for mutual understanding and connection that goes beyond the conventional student-teacher relationship.
In a world where educational institutions are constantly seeking innovative ways to create a positive and inclusive atmosphere, Jesse Wharton Elementary School’s approach stands out as a shining example. The tower system not only promotes teamwork and positive behavior but also weaves a sense of belonging and identity into the fabric of the school experience.
As students proudly don their vibrant bandanas, they become part of a tradition that celebrates unity within diversity, teamwork, and the pursuit of excellence. Through their towers, they rise above the ordinary, reaching new heights in their personal growth and collective journey at Jesse Wharton Elementary School.