Fourth-grade teacher Kristi Foster's classroom was full Friday afternoon of students drawing on cardboard boxes. Fifth-grader Trae Fisher was decorating his own box. After all, this was his idea.
"Last year, I noticed Ms. Simonds had a big recycling bin in her room," Trae said, "and it was getting really full, and it inspired me that-I thought the whole school should do it since there's a lot of paper that can be recycled. We could help-instead of wasting paper all the time, we could reuse it."
Teacher Rebecca Simonds, now Natwick, encouraged Trae to get involved.
The school teaches its kids habits of strong leaders. "One of those (habits) is to find your voice," Natwick said. "Find the things that you're passionate about; stand up for those things; work for those things. (Trae) was interested in recycling. I said 'Hey! That's totally finding your voice. If that's something you're passionate about, why not make a difference in the world?'"
He presented the idea to other students in his house, and they agreed.
Next week, Trae and his fellow students will distribute the boxes throughout the school, placing one in each classroom. Students can toss papers in the boxes that they might otherwise have thrown away. At the end of each week, students in Trae's house will dump their contents into one of two recycling bins provided by the city.
Foster and the students in her room are part of House Travail, and the project is run entirely by them. It's all part of Prairie Rose's house program, which began this year.
Teachers and third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students were sorted randomly into one of six houses: Reveur, Amistad, Isibindi, Altruismo, Travail and Phantasy, where they will remain throughout their years at Prairie Rose.
Each house represents a trait the school wants its students to have. Each house has a color, shield and chant. In the future, the school hopes to raise money to have house shirts made for the kids as well.
Housemates work together to accumulate house points, which are updated and displayed on a television screen in the hall each morning. At the end of the school year, the house with the most points will win a celebration.
Houses aren't required to create a project, but they are encouraged to think of ways to better their school and community, "to think about how they can impact the world ... outside of themselves," said Natwick.
Currently, House Travail is one of two houses with a project. This winter, House Isibindi will collect money for Pennies for Patients.
Students work on these projects during their house meetings every Friday. Those that haven't created projects instead work on team-building skills and building spirit for their team during their meetings.
"It's all kid-directed and presented," Principal Nicole Weiler said. "If we're true to our seven habits in K-2, then by third grade, our students should be able to show those leadership skills."
The house system is part of Prairie Rose's participation in the Leader in Me program, which teaches leadership skills from "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey to students.
Prairie Rose hopes to become a Lighthouse Certified School. To do so, they must score high on Leader in Me rubrics that measure the school's success in leadership, culture and academics.
The school has a staff and a student Lighthouse team that work with the parent advisory committee and work to organize Leader in Me Family Nights and Leader in Me Community Days.
The student team is comprised of three elected representatives (a third-, fourth- and fifth-grade student) from each house.