"The kids are bought in," said Polly Ryon Middle School Principal Heather Patterson. "So the kids will try that extra mile because they have the teacher that cares."
Patterson said there are four ideals that are the cornerstone for her campus: dreaming, giving, courage and friendship.
Each year, her students are selected to color houses that match up with each ideal. Throughout the year, students compete with the other respective 'houses' to win prizes. We were there as students spun a wheel to find out which house they would be assigned to.
Each student was given a colored lanyard, glided down a giant inflatable slide, and was welcomed by teachers who were dressed like colorful characters.
"Kids want to be here. My kids come to school because we're crazy and we act like this," said Patterson.
Several times a year, the school is transformed.
Last year during a day designed as "Game On" day, teachers and staff dressed as game characters like Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach. A video shows teachers Mario Kart racing.
Patterson said each 'magical day' has a lesson that's weaved in.
In the classroom, one teacher has hooked up lights and music to his Alexa assistant. When students get questions right and are fully engaged, he calls for the "red button." Immediately, the lights dim, the classroom is lit up with disco lights and music. Students are encouraged to get out of their seats and dance and celebrate.
Parents agree it's an unconventional way of learning, but they said it works.
The formula is inspired by the Ron Clark Academy, an Atlanta private school with a vision to transform classrooms around the world by demonstrating transformative methods and techniques that are embraced and replicated everywhere.
"My daughter comes home, she wants to get her work done. She does her work. She enjoys her classroom," said parent Amber Hensley.
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