KELLER, Texas -- When 5th graders arrive for their first day of classes Tuesday at Keller ISD's Parkwood Hill Intermediate School, they'll be greeted by a giant green spiral slide that can take you on a quick dizzying ride from the second floor down to the first.
But later they'll learn it's not really a slide at all. It's a giant "carrot" designed to encourage and energize students in their ride through the next four years.
"We want all of our kids to really be able to go down the slide but also see it as a reward and something that they can earn for doing a host of different things," said Parkwood Hill assistant principal Charley Erwin.
Parkwood Hill, a 5th and 6th grade campus and Hillwood Middle, the 7th and 8th grade campus across the street, are divided into eight different "houses." Think Harry Potter. The students, roughly 1,200 at each campus, compete for academic rewards and the newest enticement is the reward of hearing your classmates cheer as you take a ride down that big green slide.
At a cost of approximately $18,600 and paid for by fundraising and donations, the slide is padlocked at the top and bottom until it is needed for one of its celebratory, ceremonial, or symbolic uses. The students will get to celebrate the results of house competitions, get to take a ceremonial first ride as 5th graders and a ceremonial last ride as they leave the 8th grade, and celebrate symbolic events like birthdays and other major milestones.
"I think it's a great idea," said 6th grader Aabha Shrescha. "It kind of represents our school as a fun school."
"Yeah. It's really fun," said 7th grader Kaylin Lehmann.
"People are going to want to achieve more rewards so they can get onto that slide," said student Michael Iskander.
"Some kids don't like school but I hope that this will make them enjoy it more," said 6th grader Angelina Vidal.
Last Thursday the Keller ISD superintendent and other staff gave it their own test, and their blessing, as a form of fun and positive reinforcement for the students at both campuses. Although there is only one slide, and it's inside Parkwood Hill Intermediate, middle school students from Hillwood will get their chance to use it too.
"From just meet the teacher night on Friday we saw the excitement of our kids and just how ready and excited they are for school," said Erwin. "And that may not be happening in the same way at other campuses that don't have something like this."
"The slide is one of the meaningful things that say you are welcome here," said 6th grader Vania Bigirimana. "We want to love you and treat you as one of our students.
So this really isn't a bright green corkscrew. It's actually a very big orange carrot, enticing kids to achieve while also telling them the joy of childhood ain't over just yet.