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A trip to the school store

Students shop for goodies, demonstrate kindness

Comstock Park —  Fifth-grader Braelynn Vandenberg believes there’s less chaos and discipline problems at Pine Island Elementary all because of the school store.

Throughout the year, students collect tickets passed out by teachers and staff as rewards for doing the right thing, going above and beyond, performing school tasks or acts of kindness. Every one to two months they shop with their tickets as currency in the revamped storage closet colorfully decorated and filled with all sorts of toys, trinkets and school supplies that appeal to third, fourth and fifth graders.

“I just feel like it’s a really, really good program,” Braelynn said. “It helps kids do the right thing in school and you get rewarded for it.” 

In early February she traded in her five tickets for a small whiteboard that opens up to a mirror to use in her locker. In past shopping days she selected a sugar cookie set, cotton candy hand sanitizer, puppets and a water bottle.

“A new thing — I put a ticket in the raffle for a fuzzy blanket,” Braelynn said.

Pine Island Elementary students shop in the school store with their earned tickets

For fifth-grader Aeirus Brideforth, the store represents kindness and doing good. She collected 40 tickets for being kind, working hard, believing in herself, showing leadership and doing what she’s supposed to do. One of her classmates was short three tickets to trade for some stickers so Aeirus gave her three of her own.

“She’s, like, so kind to me, why not be kind back?” Aeirus said. She is looking forward to next month when she plans to put a ticket in the raffle for a skateboard.

A Successful Operation

Nicole McKay, a non-instructional and recess aide, supervises the store, which is in its second year.  A handful of Parent and Teacher Organization volunteers help.

McKay said the store provides an incentive for students, who often look for ways to earn tickets. The monthly raffle, where students can put in as many tickets as they want, is a way for them to earn bigger prizes. She works hard to fill the store with desirable goods that appeal to  8 to 11-year-olds, noting it’s harder to figure out what appeals to boys of that age.

“They get super excited when it’s going to be open,” McKay said. 

McKay said she has received plenty of positive feedback from parents including some who wished there was something similar when they were in school. Feeling their way through the program, teachers are giving out considerably less tickets this year compared to last year.

Nicole McKay is in her second year of supervising the school store

Building Mutual Trust

Brian Morrison, principal of Pine Island Elementary, said the district is implementing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.

“PBIS is looking to reward kids for the behaviors we want to see more of, rather than only punishing the behaviors we don’t want,” Morrison said.

This focus on students doing well and rewarding that behavior builds trust between adults and students.

“Once that relationship is formed, our teaching can begin,” Morrison said.

The store is funded by the community. At the beginning of the school year a POP (Power of Purpose) fundraiser raised enough to stock the store every month.

Morrison hears from family members about students going home and bragging about the items they “bought.”

A selection of items available in the school store at Pine Island Elementary
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Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry covers Comstock Park. She moved to the Grand Rapids area in the mid-1980s and has been a resident of Comstock Park since 2002. She understands the complexity, rewards and challenges of the teaching profession as she has five years of experience as a high school teacher at River Valley High School in Three Oaks, Mich. and St. Stephen High School in Saginaw. As a reporter for the Advance Newspapers and Mlive she covered Sparta, Kent City and Northview schools. She is happy to be a part of the great team of journalists at School News Network and writing about Comstock Park Public Schools. She is a graduate of Lake Michigan Catholic High School in St Joseph, Michigan and Central Michigan University. Read Karen's full bio


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