More than just a chance to dress up in costumes, eat delicious hot food and earn house points, the IPS House Lunch student tradition is part of the 2nd Curriculum and provides middle students in grades six through nine a chance to organize and host an event with, and for, their peers.

It’s Friday, and River is looking forward to House Lunch next Wednesday. This year he is in grade nine, which means he is one of the leaders of his House, Orion. He is pretty calm about the fact that next week he will be one of a few leaders helping coordinate activities for 72 students and ten staff at the Fall House Lunch. The (secret) theme has been chosen and preparations have already begun. Orion has come up with a theme, worked together to make a task list, delegated the creation of games and decorations, and consulted with the Orion sponsor teachers, Victoria and Anthony. The only thing they won’t have to do is cook – that will be up to parent volunteers to prepare and provide.

When asked about the best part of Hot Lunch, River is quick to respond, “The food’s really good, and it’s just fun to be with everyone and have fun activities to do.” For the grade six students, this will be the first House Lunch they have attended – never mind organized – and the experienced kids will help them learn. Says River, “We have to look over the game, and it has to take everyone in, and be something everyone would be interested in.” He goes on to talk about what is different about being a grade nine. “This year we have to lead it, keep it going. In the younger grades you can kind of just fade back into the corner and enjoy!”

 The “sorting” into Houses takes place at the beginning of the year and there are four Houses: Orion, Cassiopeia, Andromeda and Pleiades. At IPS there are two curriculums, 1st and 2nd, that both Equip and Inspire kids via engineered experiences. The House System and House Lunches are part of the 2nd Curriculum which is less academic in nature, and designed to help inspire kids to discover themselves and “express the very best of what it means to be human.” Activities across the 2nd Curriculum like the House Lunch are very intentional; focussed on providing scaffolding (the engineered part,) so that kids can connect to and learn about themselves on a team (the experience part.) IPS teacher Adrian has seen ten years’ worth of House Lunches. When asked for a list of real life skills that kids pick up without realizing it, Adrian lists “Leadership, cooperation, and how difficult it is to get anybody to listen to you!” These are lessons in team work that easily transfer to life outside IPS.

Orion has been a team for a month, wearing team shirts, playing together in a pick-up Ultimate tournament, and taking their turn at a week’s worth of school Clean Up. Every week at IPS a different House is responsible for cleaning up the school from 3:15 – 3:30. So by the time this house lunch is in the works, River already knows that his team is capable of working together, but there are still challenges, especially for a leader. When asked about the challenge of working together, River muses that “Lots of people have different ideas of what to do and picking the same idea is one hard thing we do. The only thing that I am a little bit worried about is that they don’t tell everyone what [the theme] is or forget what their role is,” but then shrugs his shoulder as if it will all probably work out just fine. 

 One of the magical things for students about House Lunches is the chance to “rise above your grade”. Says Adrian, “Jobs are split not by grade, but by interest and who would be willing to do it. “Often a younger kid has an idea to do something that an older kid doesn’t, and has the drive to do it.” Teacher Pam chimes in, “I was remembering when Franny did a scavenger hunt for the entire school. She probably spent the whole weekend on it on her own; she had everything all organized and set up and was the absolute mastermind of it in grade seven!” When asked what the best thing about House Lunches is, Adrian’s answer mirrors River’s. “They’re fun!” Adrian exclaims. “They build the culture of the school. Kids get a chance to build something together and show off their creativity.”

So what about the wackiest lunch theme that Adrian and Pam have witnessed? They reply in unison, “Inside Ted’s head!”