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Six houses, one family

Friendly competition encourages bonding, school pride

If you hear chanting or cheering in the halls at West Elementary, don’t worry; it’s all part of the plan. Students are learning one another’s names, practicing their house chant and learning about positive behavior methods. 

“B, we are the best, A is for our athleticism, N, we never give up, T, true to our house, E, is for engaged, R, we are rockstars,” chanted team Banter.

Sixth graders in each house made up a chant that will be used throughout the year to encourage a sense of community

This year, all students and staff members have been “sorted” into one of six houses, each focusing on a different character trait. They are: Ca De Bou, Banter, Dorset, Blue Bloods, Campeiro and Victorian. 

“Our goal is for students to feel as if they truly know all the staff and students in our school and that we are united as one,” said West Elementary Principal Brian Mulder.

“Kids are interacting with kids that they haven’t met before, students that aren’t in their class and who they maybe don’t know at all,” he said. “This is about creating bonds that go outside the individual classroom.” 

Houses will meet throughout the year to participate in team bonding activities, work on character trait development and complete special projects. Sixth graders created house chants and will lead their houses with the help of staff and parent volunteers.

Students will receive points for their house by exemplifying good behavior throughout the year

Building Relationships

Students and staff will work together to build strong relationships that will allow them to feel more connected to the school, building on a district-wide effort, Mulder said.

Sixth grader Scarlet Gritter said her favorite part about the houses is seeing the impact it has on the younger students. 

“We are able to use this as a motivator,” she said. “I can tell the younger students to remember our house values and they really will, they really want to try.” 

An added bonus is the opportunity to meet new people at her school, Scarlet said. 

“I have never met a large group of the people in my house,” she said. “We have a lot in common with each other. I wouldn’t have known that without this.” 

Fifth grader Ava Coleman agrees. 

“This is a chance for us to learn about different things and different people,” she said. “It’s an escape from what you’re used to every day in your classroom.”

The schools motto for the house initiative is ‘six houses, one family’

The connection to the school and to one another is important to Mulder.

“We felt it made sense to make sure every student is connected to ‘something’ in our school as well — which led to our creation of the house system,” he said.

Students earn points for their houses as a way to reinforce good behavior based on effort, achievement in work, attendance and positive contributions. Points are tallied via an app used by teachers and staff.

There will eventually be a friendly house competition between all the houses to see who will be named House Champion.

Mulder has encouraged parents to participate in the house experience by asking them to talk with their children about their house, wear their house shirts to assemblies and get involved at West.

“Families live in different houses, in different places and with different people,” Ava said. “No matter what house you are in, you’re still family and at West, that’s what we know is true.”

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Hannah Lentz
Hannah Lentz
A 2017 graduate of Grand Valley State University and a lifelong teacher’s kid, Hannah Lentz has worked as a journalist in and outside the Grand Rapids area for more than five years. After serving as editor-in-chief at the GVSU student newspaper, Hannah interned at the Leelanau Enterprise where she learned a lot about community journalism. In addition to her work for School News Network, Hannah has worked as a freelance blogger in the furniture industry, focusing on design trends, and as a social media manager for World Medical Relief in Detroit.

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  1. A big thank you goes out to our Grandville Education Foundation for helping support the points system we are using for our Bulldog House Project.

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