By Chris Edwards
Here we are in the winter of 2021, and due to the continued impact of the global pandemic, we are still adjusting to a “new” school environment.
Regardless of whatever the new environment entails (and it can change in an instant), a positive school culture remains extremely important to the success of both our students and staff members.
At the end of last school year, I wrote a MiddleWeb article (Weekly Challenges) that focused on creative and fun activities we had implemented as a school to continue to build camaraderie and relationships among our middle grades family.
Based on our initial success in bringing smiles to everyone’s faces and the high levels of participation we experienced, we wanted to keep the challenges going this year and expand on them in any way we could to involve even more members of the school community. Here’s some of what we did (I’ve only shared faculty videos here but you can be sure the student videos were awesome!).
Everybody Dance Now
As we prepared to return to school in a remote setting in September, we wanted to start the year off with some energy! Going back to the social media well, I came across a TikTok where people were dancing to a dubbed version of the famous song, “Everybody Dance Now.”
To get people into the dancing mood, we titled this first challenge:
What better way to celebrate the first week of remote learning than by dancing and letting loose a little bit?! The response was amazing! We had 17 different group submissions, that included about 25 school staff members overall – as well as another 14 student submissions. We could see that our school community still enjoyed the challenges and there was a demand for more, so we started to think of other ways to be more creative.
Our admin team began collaborating with different staff members and departments to broaden the types of challenges we offered both students and staff. We wanted to give more people opportunities to show off their abilities and personalities.
With the help of our Diversity Club, Physical Education Department, and Music Department, we have been able to come up with a variety of activities. Up to this point in the year, we’ve had the following challenges:
#FinishingUpTheFirstWeekofRemoteLearningBeLike – participants let loose in a dance/celebration of completing the first week of school (video above).
#LatinoDanceCheck Challenge – participants joined in putting together a compilation of a few steps of some popular Hispanic dances.
#RunForFun Challenge – participants had a week to walk, run, hike, bike, or participate in any type of physical activity and document the distance they had exercised
#CostumeWalk Challenge – to celebrate Halloween, participants submitted a video of themselves in a costume doing a dance, re-enacting a scene, or just having fun
#5DaysofThankfulness Challenge – during the week of Thanksgiving, members of the school community displayed different things they were thankful for in a number of unique ways
#WinterHoliday Challenge – by competing in a door decorating contest, a holiday spirit week, or submitting holiday cards, this challenge celebrated the holiday season and different celebrations
#MusicalCreation Challenge – students and staff submitted themselves playing/performing a song, creating an original beat/track, or writing their own lyrics to a song.
On to Hybrid Challenges and Beyond!
Through collaborating with many different staff members, we have been able to see even more students and staff get involved with our challenges, both in making submissions and being a part of the voting process.
As we now gear up for our transition into hybrid learning and finishing the second half of the school year, we will continue to offer challenge opportunities to engage our students and staff, and further enhance the positive school culture we have been able to build during these unique times!
Chris Edwards has served as 7th and now 8th grade assistant principal at Kreps Middle School in East Windsor, NJ, and is in his third year in administration. Prior to his school leadership role, Chris spent time teaching 3rd-8th grade students in Philadelphia and New Jersey as well as coaching boys middle school and high school basketball.