This year Sterling elementary school students will be collecting pom-poms — colorful fuzzy balls — as tokens of good behavior.
Teachers will award students with pom-poms when they see them behaving according to the three school expectations: be safe, be respectful, and be responsible.
Elijah Lee, a third-grader in Mrs. Janae Van Slyke’s class, was given three pom-poms on Wednesday, the first day of school for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Distict.
“I got two in the lunch, the cafeteria, and I got one from Mrs. Van Slyke,” Lee said. The two cafeteria pom-poms were for eating calmly, and the third was given for his quiet attention.
Lee will contribute the pom-poms to a communal jar that Mrs. Van Slyke will place in the classroom.
When the class has filled its jar with pom-poms, they will have a class celebration. Then the class jar will be emptied into the school’s pom-pom jar, along with the pom-poms collected by other classes.
What happens when the school jar is full?
“We get a whole-school celebration!” said Sterling Elementary principal Denise Kelly, introducing PBIS to her students at an assembly on Wednesday.
“What does a whole-school celebration look like?” Kelly asked the students. “At a whole-school celebration, you get to do things like go snowshoeing, and watch movies, and eat popcorn, and play kickball, and — I don’t know? Have fun?”
Sterling’s pom-pom program is one implementation of the Kenai Peninsula Borough school district’s Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies (PBIS) system, a method of providing students with positive reinforcement for explicitly-defined good behavior. Since it began using PBIS in 2009, Sterling has held field days and movie days to reward students for filling the school pom-pom jar. Sterling was the elementary first school in the Borough to take up PBIS, which is now used in 11 of the 16 school dstrict elementary sites.
Razdolna, Voznesenka, and West Homer Elementary Schools became the latest to use PBIS when they began it last year.
Sterling has added a new twist to this year’s pom-pom ritual: a golden pom-pom given for outstanding displays of safety, respect, and responsibility.
Students awarded golden pom-poms will exchange them in the principal’s office for a prize and a chip with a number.
“The prize might be a pencil, it might be an eraser, it might be a pencil grip,” Kelly said at the assembly.
The numbered chip will be put in the corresponding space on a board filled with numbers, which earn the students another party when filled.
“That might be a pizza party. It might be a popcorn party. And for those students will get another special surprise,” Kelly said. “So what should your goal be this year? To get a golden pom-pom. Because you have a chance of winning two prizes: one big one, and one little one.”