Mills Elementary builds excitement for excellent attendance

The Mills Elementary School cafeteria became a construction site Feb. 12, as students pounded nails and turned screws to build birdhouses, mini hockey games, American eagles and string-art hearts from kits provided by the Home Depot. The event rewarded the 106 students who attended school at least 97 percent of the time during the second quarter.

The quarterly event was one of several attendance-boosting initiative organized for the first time this year by Dean of Students Jeff Haudenshild, who credits the idea for the Home Depot partnership to parent Betty Rinehart, president of the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization.

“After some of these rewards, we are starting to see some increase in attendance,” said Haudenshild, who introduced the Home Depot project by reminding the children how they had earned it.

“This is awesome!” said Liliana, a second-grader making a hockey game to play with her mom and brother. “It’s fun to do something we want to do.”

Classmate Adeline worked on an American eagle. “I like going to school,” she said. “I like math and reading.”

Students had help from school staff and Home Depot employees Larry Bosley and Jill Deller, but many worked independently from instruction sheets or with the help of neighbors.

“You used the wrong nail,” said Emma Cruz to her friend Tali Blauser. “Maybe you can take it out with this part of the hammer. I’ve seen my dad do that.”

Asking a neighbor or raising a hand were the “help” choices given at the outset by Haudenshild, who was pleased to see students also listening to his expectations for “activity,” “movement” and “participation” – components of the “CHAMPS” classroom management system used throughout the district.

Maybe the only expectation not met was for “conversation,” because a “level 2” (small-group) voice really couldn’t compete with the hammering.

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