Similar to the way Harry Potter and friends at the fictional Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry are divided into four houses, some students at the real Pinewood Intermediate School are being sorted into houses that are intended to provide continuity from grade to grade.
Going into the second year of the pilot program, about 125 Pinewood students in all three grades are involved with a house. They call themselves the Pinewood Flyers.
The idea for a house system began about two years ago. Last year, the first houses were created to test out the system, former Pinewood Principal Michael Johnson said.
Johnson, who is now the interim superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the house system is supposed to increase student connections throughout their three years at Pinewood.
`This is an exciting initiative,` Johnson said. `I think Pinewood has a lot going on and this is something that the teachers and parents have really gotten behind to make life better for the students.`
About 700 students attend Pinewood each year for third, fourth and fifth grades. The school is broken down into three separate wings by grade level.
Because there are so many students and the wings are so separate, the challenge is creating an environment where the students felt comfortable and teachers can collaborate.
`Research shows that creating smaller communities especially in a large school is critical,` Mohonasen superintendent Kathleen Spring said.
The house system creates teams of students who stay together for their three years at Pinewood. The students develop connections with each other as they travel through the grades and get to know the teachers on their teams. The teachers also get to know their students and their needs. The house system allows for continuity throughout the grades by providing common planning time for each teacher.
Guilderland’s Farnsworth Middle School has a similar system. The school is broken down by houses with each house taking up a separate wing of the building. The students only travel among their own house so they hardly leave their small communities.
This year the Pinewood Flyers are situated in the middle of the building. The six teachers on the team have similar schedules, so they have time to collaborate on instruction and plan special events.
Last year, a house spent the day cleaning up the grounds around Pinewood and planting flowers. Also, instruction can be similar among the different grade levels within a house. Last year, while learning about different cultures, each grade level chose a different culture to learn about and then presented what they learned to each other, Johnson said.
`They have common planning time so they can plan different activities, which is kind of exciting,` Johnson said.
The house system is still in the trial phases, parents decided at the beginning of the year if they wanted their child to participate. Johnson said he doesn’t anticipate going to a full house system in the near future. While there are more than 700 students at Pinewood, class size is still low with about 22 students in each classroom.
`Going to a complete house system would take a lot of review and discussion. I don’t see that happening short term,` Johnson said. `I wouldn’t force it on the whole school. Pinewood is a strong elementary school.`