With the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, Woodward’s Middle School introduced the concept of houses, for the first time dividing students into one of six constellation-inspired cohorts. As detailed in documentation accompanying the unveiling, the constellations were an inspiration in terms of how they helped ancient navigators find their way, just as educators hope the houses will help students navigate the often fraught experience of middle school.
“Our first goal is community,” says Middle School Principal Dee Koscik, EdD. “Woodward is a big school; much bigger than many of our students are used to. And it can be intimidating. We wanted them to have a group of people who they knew were part of their team, part of their smaller community.”
Koscik said the concept of houses first occurred when she was part of the Innovation team at Woodward North. COVID put those plans on hold, but eventually a committee was formed and the idea was fleshed out.
Of course, for most U.S. students, the chief familiarity with houses comes from the four Hogwarts houses featured in Harry Potter. And indeed, Koscik said associating colors, prioritizing attributes, and creating a sense of history for each house was a big part of the appeal to students.
The six houses are:
House of Canis
Key Attribute: Perseverance
House of Phoenix
Key Attribute: Resilience
House of Pegasus
Key Attribute: Originality
House of Lynx
Key Attribute: Wisdom
House of Draco
Key Attribute: Loyalty
House of Ursa
Key Attribute: Courage
Participation in and between houses will take many forms. As at Hogwarts, students will have the opportunity to earn points for their houses, specifically tied to four categories: academic excellence, character, school spirit, and outstanding performance. Unlike Hogwarts, however, points cannot be taken away, even when students make mistakes, as Koscik says the goal is to use them as a positive reinforcement tool, not a penalty. Students and faculty can manage house points via an app.
“We've given points so far for helping friends clean up at lunch, holding doors for people, learning names and greeting each other with eye contact and respect, and for showing leadership in class,” says Koscik. “We showcase weekly leaders each Monday, and ensure students understand how they can earn points going forward.”
Additionally, through the Middle School’s crew council (formerly known as the student council), students will have the opportunity to showcase student voice, ownership, and leadership skills.
“[So far] the students and adults are really enjoying the camaraderie and opportunities for friendly competitions and for fun,” says Koscik. “We are thrilled with how it's begun and are looking forward to seeing it progress as the year continues.”