Build School Spirit From the Start

14 ways PTOs and PTAs can encourage a strong school community.

by Elizabeth S. Leaver and Terri Frank


When schools and parent groups take the time to welcome everyone, get them excited, and inspire a sense of unity and common identity, something big happens: True spirit is created. That sense of pride that students feel yields lots of good results! These ideas can boost spirit at your school from the very first day.

Let Them Brag

Set up a “brag board” near the school entrance or on your group’s website or Facebook group or page. Ask teachers, parents, and students to answer a question like “What excites you about this year?” or “What has been your proudest accomplishment so far?”

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Pick a Theme

Theme spirit days are practically guaranteed to keep kids excited about school. Examples include decades day (’60s, ’70s, ’80s, etc.), silly shoes or wacky socks day, backward day, and tropical day. If everyone can’t be physically together because of a chool closure, virtual theme days and weeks can bring everyone together over video conferencing platforms or social media.

30 Ideas for School Spirit Days

Spirit Fridays

Students, staff, and volunteers 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.). Call students by the school mascot name—pandas, cardinals, or hawks—to create camaraderie.


Play in the Dirt

Kids and adults alike can feel a sense of pride by digging into an outdoor school project like cleaning up the grounds or planting or weeding a garden.


Get Social

Take a cue from the Kingsview Middle School PTSA in Germantown, Md., which posted event details and photos of its talent show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with a dedicated hashtag. That kind of branding encourages school spirit and also keeps your event current.

Celebrate School History

Give students and staff a sense of historic pride and dedicate a day to dress up in period outfits that reflect the year the school was built.

Penny Wars

These events can be as competitive (or not) as you wish while instilling a feeling of teamwork within classrooms. Make prizes fun, such as a pie to the principal’s face, and let the highest-earning class decide which charity will get the collected change.


Be in the Moment

Find casual ways for the school community to gather and celebrate events and successes in real time—for example, when a sports team is headed to a big game, assemble the other students to clap team members onto the bus.

Celebrate Differences

Many school communities are home to a wide variety of nationalities and cultures. Give students and families an opportunity to share pride in their heritage by hosting multicultural events like recipe exchanges or potlucks.

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 creating the designs promotes a sense of pride.

Call in the Mascots

“Stuff a mascot” family events are fun ways to build camaraderie among the students, and some groups add custom school spirit T-shirts to the kits. School mascots started making appearances during school closures and continue to pop up on a group’s or school’s social media. They also make house calls to wish a student happy birthday before or after school, and they appear at family nights and fundraising events.

Create a Tradition

Create a school tradition that gets kids involved in service, like collecting nonperishable items for a nearby food bank, running a cleanup day at a local park, or contributing to a local holiday toy drive for children.

Make a Visual Splash

When the school community reaches its big fundraising or collection goal, show off the group’s accomplishment with a video or event that gets everyone feeling proud. When the Mannington Elementary School in Salem, N.J., collected cereal for a local food pantry, they lined up the boxes like dominoes in a long hallway. Students stood on both sides of the hall and cheered as they watched the boxes fall one after the other, and the video of the milestone event was viewed more than 850 times.

Offer Support

Building unity and spirit isn’t just about pep rallies and having fun together—sometimes, it’s about banding together during tough times. No one can anticipate difficult situations, but rallying during hard events can make a community closer. Whether it’s providing lunch for first responders during the coronavirus pandemic or organizing a clothing donation after a hurricane, people working together for a common cause share a sense of pride that they had a positive impact as a group.

Originally published in 2016 and updated regularly.

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