LIVINGSTON, NJ — Continuing a tradition that began during the 2011-2012 school year, Mt. Pleasant Middle School (MPMS) students recently participated in the school’s bi-annual Puma Pride Day. After attending six individual elementary schools for grades K-5, the half-day event served as a unique way for Livingston's sixth graders to bond as a class.
As the first order of business, students customized T-shirts that were color-coded by school teams (1, 2, 3 and 4) with the front of each shirt bearing the student’s team number along with the words “Puma Pride Day.” Teachers then encouraged the students to be creative as they gave them complete artistic freedom to design the back of their shirts.
The shirts, some of which display elaborate designs created by the budding artists, will now play an integral part of the students’ academic year. According to Kathleen Youtz, MPMS math teach and co-sponsor of Puma Pride, the team shirts will be worn throughout the school year “for advisory lessons and team activities."
Youtz also explained that the fall Puma Pride Day, which is held twice a year, focuses on teamwork.
“Team building is the goal for the Puma Pride,” she said. “This is their first opportunity to work as a group to accomplish tasks. Through games, students learn to communicate, collaborate and build community.”
The other objective of Puma Pride Day is to “encourage kindness” among the students, which Youtz said was “certainly the outcome.”
Being outside and participating in all of the activities serves as a welcome a break from the students’ rigorous academics and feels like a day off. Many won’t even realize they are being taught important collaboration skills, according to Youtz.
After each activity, the students discussed which strategies were effective and what they felt was not helpful.
“During the debrief portion of each activity, students share what worked to accomplish the task and what didn’t work,” said Youtz. “Here, we discuss the [MPMS] pillars of Respect, Responsibility, Trustworthiness and Caring.”
A new activity was also introduced this year, where students had the opportunity to earn their digital driver’s license by answering questions about their digital footprint and explaining how to be a good digital citizen. Given the prevalence of social media in today’s society, the digital driver’s license is a relevant and pragmatic idea.
“Our first Puma Pride Day was a day of collaboration and celebration and our first official chance to bring great minds together,” said Youtz.
Another Puma Pride Day is already in the organization stages for spring 2019.
Last spring, students from the Livingston High School Advanced Leadership Program visited MPMS to host Puma Pride Day. Joining with their younger counterparts, the students led a series of fun team-building activities designed to highlight cooperation, character and communication—which are taught and emphasized throughout the school year.