Pershing students set to launch bright year of behavior in Comet Houses

Ava beamed with delight when she heard the name of her new Comet House announced in front of all her peers.
She knew she would be joining a fun group of fifth graders for the rest of the school year.
“I was very excited,” Ava said with a smile. “I think having our meetings and reaching our goals as a house will be fun. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Students from all three fifth-grade classes at Pershing Elementary School copied Ava’s smile during a Comet House sorting event Sept. 8. The 45-minute ceremony featured applause, high fives and a Harry Potter-style “talking” hat.  

Pershing staff began the Comet Houses project in 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to foster community and teamwork among fifth-grade classes.  

“It initially started as a way for students to see value in themselves, celebrate successes and bridge the gap of social-emotional skills students lacked coming out of the pandemic,” Pershing fifth-grade teacher Kasey Dils said. “When we put the house system in place it was amazing to see how excited students got about it. We felt like it was such a fun way to build upon relationships and teamwork while also instilling a sense of pride.”
Alexander was also energized about the upcoming year. Students in the Mercury, Saturn and Neptune groups can collect points by displaying positive behavior anywhere on Pershing’s campus.
“I’m hoping to get the ice cream party,” said Alexander, who was dressed in a Harry Potter costume with a cape and wand. “That’s 1,500 points.”
Students work as teams in their Comet Houses with different students and a different teacher than they have in their homeroom. They gather every other week to learn about important character traits and behavior skills. Karissa Karg will lead Mercury students, Dils will guide the Neptune group and Samantha Nelson will oversee Saturn students.
Each teacher will celebrate stories of good behavior and discuss areas of growth they would like to see. Each house will then set a new goal and try to achieve it before the next meeting.
“The Comet Houses already reinforce the systems we have at Pershing,” Dils said.

He explained that school staff can give students “Comet Tickets” any time they exhibit positive behaviors like being safe, respectful and responsible. He added that the Comet House system allows students to collect these incentives from any staff member, fueling the competition for top house at the end of the semester. 
“This helps students realize the social skills we learn in our homeroom can be applied everywhere, no matter the teacher or environment,” Dils said. 
Fifth-grade students are the only ones at Pershing who participate in the project. They spread the word to younger students each year to let them know what they can look forward to.
“I heard about it last year when I was doing recess,” said Emily, who raised both hands in excitement when she was picked for the Neptune house. “It sounded like a lot of fun.”
Dils said students realize they have reached a milestone in their Pershing careers when they start the Comet Houses project.
“This makes it extra special and it is always the number-one thing fourth graders look forward to and ask about when coming to fifth grade,” Dils said. “The house sorting event is a big day because it is the day all fifth graders will find out what house they will represent this school year!”
Students sat at tables in the cafeteria and waited for Karg to call their name during the sorting ceremony. They then walked to a chair at the front of the room and had a brown pointed hat placed on their heads. The hat “spoke” to them through a computer program and told them which house they would be in.
Ava said she had fun throughout the whole afternoon. She said the Comet Houses will create many beaming smiles at Pershing during the year.
“It’s a really good thing that we get to do,” Ava said. “I’m glad we have it here.”
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Published: September 18, 2023, Updated: September 18, 2023

Pershing Elementary School students enjoyed many brilliant smiles Sept. 8 during a Comet House program sorting event. Fifth-grade students learned which Comet House they would join during the school year. The program is designed to help students brighten their knowledge in areas like teamwork, responsibility and kindness.