Schools and parent groups that take the time to build school spirit instill a sense of pride in their students that can result in better attendance and grades and a positive school culture. Building spirit can range from simple fun like Spirit Fridays to more complex plans, such as involving the whole school in a community service project.

1. Celebrating school history

To infuse students and staff with a sense of historic pride, dedicate a day for them to dress up in period outfits that reflect the year the school was built.

2. Spirit Fridays

Students and staff can sport their school T-shirt, school colors, or other attire that reflects their school (leopard print for leopards, black and white for pandas, etc.). Address students by their mascot name—pandas, cardinals, hawks—to create a sense of camaraderie.

3. Themed spirit weeks

Dedicate the week before standardized testing or an extended school break to themed spirit days to keep kids excited about school. Some examples include backward day, silly shoes or wacky socks day, decades day (’60s, ’70s, ’80s), and Hawaiian day.

4. Penny wars

Stimson Middle School in South Huntington, N.Y., assigned each homeroom to collect as many pennies as possible for a week. Students also brought in nickels, dimes, and quarters to put in the buckets of rival homerooms. Classes tallied the change then subtracted 5, 10, or 25 cents for each nickel, dime, or quarter in their buckets. The winning homeroom got to put a pie in the principal’s face, and the money collected went to a hunger charity. A less competitive alter­native would be to have kids donate their change for a week and allow the highest-earning class to choose which charity will receive it.

5. Design contest

Ask interested students to submit a design idea for a school spirit T-shirt early in the year. You can still sell regular spiritwear, but getting students involved in one of the designs promotes a sense of pride.

6. School grounds cleanup

Nothing gets kids invested like improving their school environment. Work with your principal to organize a weekend day cleanup for weeding flower beds, cleaning up raised garden beds, or doing simple painting projects. Create a list ahead of time, ask parents to bring tools and refreshments, and crank the music while everyone works.

7. Promoting world awareness

Abraham Lincoln Elementary in Glen Ellyn, Ill., collected more than 1,200 pairs of gently used shoes for the nonprofit organization Stuff for the Poor, which helped send 15 Ugandan children to school. For visual effect, Lincoln’s students lined up the shoes from one end of the school to the other and out the door, filling the students with excitement and pride. The kids also collected almost 1,300 pairs of new socks in a sock drive to donate to two local charities. Explore your community for similar opportunities.

8. Door decorating contest

Decide on a schoolwide theme in advance, such as a favorite book or movie, and invite each classroom to design and decorate its classroom door. Award prizes if you wish.

9. Local service tradition

Create a school tradition around getting kids involved in service, such as a cleanup day at a local park, collecting canned food for your food bank, or contributing to a holiday toy drive for local children.

10. Walking “together” for health and the environment

One year, Columbia Elementary in Bellingham, Wash., decided to “walk” to its sister city, Bellingham, Mass. A U.S. map was posted in the main hallway with both towns highlighted. Each day, teachers compiled the mileage of kids who walked or rode bikes to school (participating families measured the distance to school in advance), and each week a pair of paper legs advanced farther across the map. The journey took nearly nine months, and the kids kept a close eye on the map all year long. Any destination will work, and you can consider counting weekend walks to include kids who take the bus to school.