The Academy Difference blog series explores how our faculty integrates the 6 “Cs” of Academy at the Lakes’ Core Curriculum. Our faculty ensures “the success of each individual at school, in the community, and in the world,” by connecting every classroom experience with at least one of our 6 Cs. To learn more, visit our website.
Collaboration and Character: All School
Kestrel. Nighthawk. Osprey. Peregrine.
Ask any Academy at the Lakes community member, and they will quickly identify these Florida birds of prey as the school’s four “Houses.”
But did you know that Academy’s Houses could just as easily have been named Feta, Gorgonzola, Muenster and Gouda?
Cheesy, yes. But it’s also true.
Of course, the committee members charged with developing and naming Academy’s Houses were only kidding around when they toyed with the idea of cheese names.
“There were many ways of doing it,” said committee member and Middle Division Director John Pitcairn. “We discussed naming the Houses after continents or major world rivers; historic colleges and constellations; ancient heroes and Florida butterflies; and of course, cheese.”
“Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed.”
Naming Academy’s four Houses was just a small piece of the planning that went into launching the program, which arose from the school’s 2003 strategic plan, Charting Our Course.”
One of the initiatives of the strategic plan was to “develop a culture of life-long participation by students, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff in the advancement of the school.”
The House system, which launched during the 2004-05 school year as a result of this strategic initiative, places all students and teachers PreK3 through grade 12 into one of four Houses. To encourage family ties, siblings and cousins are assigned to the same House.
Through the House system, a variety of community-building activities have become traditions at Academy, including a field day called “House Day,” other spirit events, and Buddy Reading. Through these activities, relationships can develop between students of all divisions and ages.
At the end of each school year, the House Cup is awarded to the team that accumulates the most points in the various spirit, academic, and field day events held throughout the year.
Melissa Feingold ’18, has attended Academy for nine years and is a member of the Peregrine House.
“My favorite House activity is Buddy Reading,” said Melissa. “It’s really fun to get to bond with the younger students across the street and it was so fun when I was younger to have the older kids from across the street read to me. I know so many of the little kids because of the House system, unlike in a bigger school community where I may not know anyone.”
“My Peregrine reading buddy from when I was a Lower Division student is now a graduate of Academy. Recently, he came back to visit campus and he still remembered me. He’s almost like a big brother figure to me and that has made it really cool.”
Although Kestrel, Nighthawk, Osprey, and Peregrine are now part of the everyday vernacular at Academy, it wasn’t so long ago that most Academy families had no idea what a House system was.
“We knew going into this that it was brand new and that we had a big challenge ahead of us,” said Pitcairn. “The only experience any of the students had with a House system was having read the Harry Potter series. We knew there could be a buy-in issue. But we also knew it would grab the attention of the younger students.”
“What we were looking forward to was the tradition setting as the years passed, and that has really happened. Now there is not a student in the high school who has known Academy without having a House system. Memories like Buddy Reading and House Day have become an ingrained part of our school’s culture.”