Two Kentucky elementary schools have started the academic year by installing large two-story indoor slides, not necessarily as play equipment but in an attempt to change the culture in the building.
In one exercise to launch the school year this past week at Bristow and Alvaton elementary schools in Warren County, students glided down the tubular slides to the cheers of classmates and were permanently assigned to teams where they will forge friendships and learn value lessons. Throughout the year, the teams will focus on attributes such as enthusiasm, adventure, and empowerment.
“We know if we get the culture right, then learning will start to take place (with) an even higher expectation for everyone. I’ve never had students come in to school as excited as they were this year. It just totally changed the culture of our school,” said Alvaton fifth grade teacher Jeremy McGinty.
Students will also earn rides on the slide for major accomplishments and for making significant contributions to the classroom.
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Bristow Elementary introduced the slide when school started Wednesday and Principal Chris Stunson said there was an air of celebration among students, staff and families. Stunson said the idea came from the innovative Ron Carter Academy in Georgia which combines advanced rigor with “engaging teaching methods, and a passionate climate and culture,” according to its website.
At Bristow, kids spun a wheel and took a ride on the tubular slide. When they emerged, they were assigned to teams or “houses” to give them a sense of belonging at school.
The slide is more that 14 feet long. The PTA and the school partnered to cover the $18,000 cost, Stunson said.
Students are encouraged to think as they go down the slide about their individual path to success.
“More than likely we will use it for a reward,” said Stunson. “If students go above and beyond, if they excel academically, if they meet goals, they will have the opportunity to use the slide.”
“It’s a positive incentive for the kids, “ said McGinty. “If they are on task, if they are doing positive things around the school, then they will get to go down the slide. “
Both schools will allow children to ride the slide as a treat on their birthday. Parents have even asked to ride the slide, said McGinty.
There’s at least one other indoor slide in Kentucky, in the Eminence Independence school district which installed one in 2016 as part of their effort to transform learning.
Assistant Superintendent Thom Coffee said the district placed the slide in a shared space for students in grades k-12. The spiral slide extends from a top floor to a bottom floor.
“It’s a piece of the culture of who we are,” Coffee said, “We have a belief that we call surprise and delight. It’s really about trying to create a culture that embeds fun. I think you are starting to see that in a lot of corporate environments...we are trying to bring that same mindset into a school.”