“The Wampus climate is carefully tended to on a daily basis so that when anybody comes into our building it feels warm, safe, happy and loving,” said Wampus Principal, Peggy McInerney. “Climate permeates everywhere and is part of everything we do.”
This summer, Wampus embarked upon a major reshuffle of classrooms with the intent to support community and culture in the school.
“The concept of building a school community this way seemed simple, but was a herculean task in which we moved over 70% of the school around,” Mrs. McInerney said. “The move was daunting and felt like a giant puzzle. Logistics included childhood development research, infrastructure investigation, manpower hours, technology in each classroom, moving art and music rooms and more,” continued Mrs. McInerney. The physical work started in June and was completed in August, just in time for the arrival of teachers and students.
Grouping students of the same grade in their own hub within the building helps in several ways. It creates a general feeling of safety and togetherness for our children which are hallmarks of building a community. It also keeps teachers organized, as they can better share resources and have common planning times.
A tremendous amount of research, historical data, and understanding of childhood development went into these decisions. Mrs. McInerney explained, “7 and 8-year-olds are far different developmentally than 10 and 11-year-olds and require different elements to foster the type of sub-communities needed at each stage of their growth.” She wanted to ensure that the building felt like an elementary school setting while allowing students to spread their wings.
There was the desire to promote independence for the 5th graders by giving them a space of their own. The new layout provides them the opportunity to travel to their special classes independently.
“In collaboration with teachers and other stakeholders, independent spaces were created for students because that helps foster emotional wellness and stability for each grade unique to their needs,” Mrs. McInerney said. “It is a delicate dance to carefully plan so that we have every child in their appropriate zone of development.”
There was a conscious effort to create structures that provided the opportunity for students to see their peers as role models. Decisions on the placement of classrooms and specific times for grade overlap were considered. The 3rd and 4th-grade classrooms were planned close to each other so that 4th graders would act as role models throughout the day for the younger students. Also, the 4th and 5th graders are together for morning arrival, so that 5th graders have an opportunity to be leaders and set good examples for 4th graders.
Mrs. McInerney has set high expectations in a caring and sensible way. The Wampus Community is thriving and continues to grow and flourish.