MANATEE -- The 5,000-pounds of snow covered hardly 300 square feet, but it provided hours of joy to hundreds of excitable elementary school students whose good behavior earned them the right to hurl “iceballs” at a wooden snowman.
“Fantastic,” “super exciting” and “awesome” were words that echoed throughout the interior courtyard of Sea Breeze Elementary as each class took its turn at the snow pile. Though at least half of the school’s students had never before seen snow, others like second-grader Alicia Arthur got a kick out of comparing this snow to the “real” snow they had experienced in other states.
“This snow is less cold than it was before,” Alicia observed.
The “snow day” was Sea Breeze Elementary’s latest “big event.” Principal Jackie West holds the celebrations monthly as part of the school’s SOAR program, which stands for Safe, Organized, Accountable and Respectful.
Through the program, kids earn tickets for things like helping each other with their schoolwork, reliably wearing their school uniforms, showing respect to their teachers and other students, helping to move chairs and other equip- ment, walking in straight lines and quietly through hallways, and sharing rather than withholding information on other kids’ misbehavior.
Those who earn enough tickets get to participate in special events like Thursday’s snow day.
“It helps us not get into trouble and learn to respect each other,” Kersten said.
The kids also earn tickets for learning how to keep themselves and each other safe.
“We learn that if somebody tries to snatch you up, you tell them to ‘leave me alone’ and you tell an adult,” said third-grader Kimberly Tresalus.
In the three years since the SOAR program began at Sea Breeze, West has organized game days, where students are encouraged to bring in their favorite board or card game; water slide days; popsicle days; pumpkin-painting parties; and events as simple as West standing on the school roof spraying students with water.
“I didn’t see what the big deal was with that, but the students sure enjoyed it!” West said. “We just try to be creative and reward them for their good behavior.”
The school sent home notes ahead of time encouraging parents to equip their kids with gloves, but Sea Breeze also provided a couple of pairs for those who didn’t have their own.
The excitement of the day seemed contagious, with small groups breaking out in cheers for each other and big smiles even on the faces of those who said their hands were frozen.
“SOAR is a great program,” said first-grade teacher Mandy Moore.
“Kids catch on to it as they see other kids doing something good in class and earning a ticket. They see how other kids are making good choices in the classroom.”
Christine Hawes, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.