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Gulf Elementary students, teachers, ‘rock’ their school

By Staff | Sep 19, 2019

Teachers and students at Gulf Elementary School in Cape Coral joined thousands nationwide in a movement to promote outside-the-box learning and to “Rock Your School.”

Students and teachers from grade levels K-5 were collectively and randomly “sorted” into houses, with each house representing a character trait and color to match. Teachers and students dressed up in their “character trait colors” to show their house pride, as well as tremendously decorated each wing of the school.

“It’s amazing, they instantly felt like a group,” said Kim Verblaauw, Gulf Elementary principal. “It just created a sense of belongingness to the school. It’s created this atmosphere of our school and everybody’s belonging to something.”

This is the first year of “Rock Your School” at Gulf Elementary, but Verblaauw hopes to continue the program for not just the rest of this year, but for future years as well.

Each grade level also came up with different themed classrooms to learn about a particular subject.

Kindergarten turned into Camp Kindergarten and first graders chose the popular game “Candy Land,” where their hallway was transformed into the classic board game with rainbow colors and candy-themed lessons.

Second graders chose many different themes for different classrooms.

Third graders took a trip to the arctic, while fourth graders learned all about national parks.

You could hear the school house rock coming from the fifth graders, as they learned all about the 1950s.

For example, a fifth grade class can be made up of students from all eight houses, while they are all learning about the ’50s.

“Each grade level had their own choice,” Verblaauw. “However you want to rock your school out. Then they decided as a team how they wanted to implement that.”

Verblaauw said the whole idea of the program is to bring new learning tools to the table for teachers and engage the students.

“It really inspired us to make learning fun. It should be fun. I want kids to want to be here. The energy walking in today was phenomenal. We’re just inspired, we just really want to make school a place where kids want to be every day.”

There were no shortage of smiles and colorful attire from all members of Gulf Elementary, who made each wing of the school truly special — something that would seem magical for a young student.

The program doesn’t end with just one day. The “houses” will stay together throughout the school year, as they earn points along the way by demonstrating the traits of their house that will determine a house winner every quarter.

The prize? A house party, of course.

Houses even have special chants and handshakes that they presented at the school’s pep rally and share throughout the halls.

There are eight houses overall, with a different language and color to go along with each trait.

They include: House Virtuoso, which means trustworthiness in Italian, represented with the color blue; House Auctoritas, which means responsibility in Latin, represented with lime green; House Meas, which means respect in Irish, represented by the color yellow/gold; House Justice, which means fairness in French, represented by the color orange; House Omgee, which means caring in Afrikaans, represented by the color red; House Saoranacht, which means citizenship in Irish, represented by the color purple; House Valor, which means courage in Spanish, represented by the color cyan and House Integritat, which means integrity in German, represented by hot pink.

“The houses are in a different language so that we can tie in the cultural literacy piece to each house,” said Verblaauw. “Our goal was to not only connect them to their character traits, but the houses will meet quarterly to also learn about that culture.”

Students will remain in their houses for their entire time at Gulf Elementary, said Verblaauw.

“They’ll build that camaraderie within that house of K-5,” said Verblaauw. “This year is really teacher-led, but our goal is for the students to be the leaders and guide it.”

Students and teachers will not be dressing up to the nines every day, but Thursday’s will be house color day.

“Really, we’re just trying to get kids engaged,” said Nikki White, first grade teacher at Gulf, and an exceptionally dressed lollipop. “If we can hook kids early and get them to love to learn, then they’re going to be lifetime learners.

“We’re engaging them by having fun and showing them that school can be fun, but also meet the needs of the curriculum and just help them to be their best.”

White seemed to be having fun as well, and said “Rock Your School” is a great way for everyone, teachers included, to bring something different to the table for kids in the way of learning and educating.

“They love it. They’re excited to be here. They’re excited to learn,” said White. “And we (teachers) love it too.”

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj