Swanton Middle School students were sorted into houses earlier this month as part of the Swanton Seven Initiative, and the excitement level in the gym was off the charts.
The process to start the Swanton Seven began more than a year ago with the building leadership team looking for ways to improve the school and get kids more excited about school.
“We were helped immensely with the successful awarding of our 21st Century grant which allowed us to purchase many innovative and engaging things for our students like robots, stem kits, hands on equipment, new technology, etc,” said principal Matt Smith. “Along with those supplies we were able to get staff training and send several staff members down to the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta last spring.”
Smith and four teachers visited The Ron Clark Academy, which has a house concept, and they have been hooked ever since, according to the principal. “Hicksville Schools also implements a house system and the building leadership, myself, and Superintendent Chris Lake all went and toured their building and saw a house assembly in action,” said Smith.
The Swanton Seven is made up of simple guidelines that students should follow to be their best. They include exhibiting effective listening skills, utilizing excellent converstion skills, using manners, choosing to work hard, supporting, respecting and encouring people, being honest and taking pride in the school and yourself.
The Swanton Seven comes complete with a story on how the information was found in the recently demolished Cherry Street school building. “We have explained to the students that the houses were chosen from an old scroll found in our old Cherry Street building that explained that the leaders of Swanton years ago wanted this to happen,” Smith said.
The house names are Dignitas, Obduro, Gratus, and Sapientia.
“The teachers had a big reveal of their houses two weeks ago and the kids have been buzzing ever since,” Smith said. “The excitement is off the charts right now as you can witness at our assembly.”
The students entered the gym several at a time and, after Smith counted down from 10, removed a cover revealing their house. New housemates roared in excitement at the reveal.
“The houses give our students a chance to mentor others, be part of something bigger than their circle of friends, gives us a platform to help teach our Swanton 7, and also score points for students exhibiting those seven characteristics that we know are so important,” said Smith.
Dignitas is the hosue of honorable achievers. Obduro is the house of persistent scholars, Gratus is the house of grateful leaders, and Sapientia is the house of Wise Citizens. The first letter of each house spells out DOGS, which represents the one house all students belong to.
Another aspect of the initiative has been the transformation of the library into a makerspace, which is a place where kids can create, make or build something.
“We have been able to purchase a giant printer, we are ordering a 3D printer, robots, circuit kits, lego robotics, drones, 3D pens, brain games, puzzles and so much more,” Smith said. “We are putting pictures of all of our students on the walls of the halls as well and we have changed the front entrance to make it more appealing to our students. The hallways have been painted as well as the outside glazed brick to spruce up the building.”
Most of the items have been purchased with grant money and the help of community partners including North Star Bluescope Steel, Sauder Manunfacturing, Sauder Woodworking, Swanton Welding, Scottdel, Norfolk Southern, and Schmidt Brothers.
“We are hoping more people will want to be part of our movement. The support so far has been humbling and we can’t thank them enough,” Smith said. “Chris Lake has given us the green light, support and encouragement to do this as well as the Swanton Board of Education members. Glen Dominique and the custodial staff at SMS have went above and beyond to help with this effort as well.”