Good as a Gold Card
Good behavior equals great holiday shopping for students in Greater Annapolis.
In a season when most adults have pushed credit card limits to the maximum, the idea of alternative ways to buy gifts is an interesting prospect. Local schools are ahead of the curve in this experiment with holiday shops where students spend school currency earned by following the rules. It's a project that makes everyone jolly.
"It is the most exciting day of the year," said Rolling Knolls Elementary (RKE) school counselor Katie McCord, speaking of the school's holiday flea market on Dec. 17. "You never see anyone without a smile when they are shopping."
Several area schools, including RKE, Hillsmere Elementary and Annapolis Middle, have special holiday shops as part of the county's Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) program. The program was put into practice in 2000 to promote actions that "uplift students and reward them for showing respect and good character," as described on the PBIS Maryland website.
Each month, schools reward students for good behaviors, such as turning in homework, helping another student, being prepared, or showing respect. Depending on the school, rewards come in the form of paper "dollars" or a debit account kept by teachers. Schools then offer opportunities for students to spend this capital with a variety of activities, such as raffles, tickets to a school event or the chance to buy items at a school shop — a popular incentive this time of year.
Parent groups work with school staff to organize logistics and donations for these seasonal "shops." A recent PTA e-mail to parents at Hillsmere Elementary requested donations of picture frames, unused candles, small toys, men's ties, scarves or "anything in new or practically new condition." One volunteer described the items as "anything you'd put in a yard sale." The items are collected, priced and set up for students to peruse.
At Annapolis Middle School this week, students were offered an exclusive "preview" sale, according to the school newsletter. For an entrance fee of 20 Dragon Dollars, (named for the school mascot), a student got first pick of merchandise at the Dragon Dream Shop, along with hot chocolate and cookies. The sale was open to the entire student body the following day.
The Hillsmere Elementary Holiday Bazaar ran for three days and offered free gift wrap along with the choice of a free book or stuffed animal for any students who had earned a $25 Holiday Bazaar Gift certificate, the highest amount available. Students were allowed to purchase three items each.
Approximately 400 students shop RKE's Flea Market in a four-hour time period on one day, with students allowed to spend up to 30 Rocket Dollars, (also named after the school mascot). There is no limit to how many items can be purchased.
These holiday shops rely on parent and community volunteers to provide donated merchandise, price items, organize displays, and help students on the day of the event. RKE also uses members of the 5th grade class to help with the event.
Given a room filled with toys and a pocket-full of "school cash," won't most kids buy for themselves?
Volunteers at the Hillsmere Holiday Bazaar encourage students to buy items for family or friends. Greater Annapolis Patch observed a 2nd grade student buying a purse for his teacher and a Winnie-the-Pooh game for his teacher's young daughter.
RKE Art Teacher Betsy Miller recalled a memorable exchange at a recent flea market.
"One of my 5th graders said 'my mom is going to look like a queen in this necklace.' I thought that was very touching," said Miller.