16 Ideas & Tips for Building School Spirit

Building School Community & Culture Across All Grades

When making plans for the school year, don’t forget to bring the S*P*I*R*I*T! No need to contain yourself – whether you’re a parent leader, principal, teacher, or student council member, these 16 great ideas for promoting school spirit will make it easy to get everyone pumped, no matter their grade level! 

Pro Tip: The more the merrier! Ask teacher, student, and parent leaders to join together and plan your school year of spirited fun!

Elementary kids and teachers showing school spirit

Chalk Messages

Throughout the school year, decorate the school’s sidewalks and exterior walls with welcoming and positive messages – welcome back to school messaging to kick the year off (“It’s SO good to see you!”), holiday-themed artwork throughout the year (“You are BOO-tiful!” with a ghost for Halloween, “So THANKFUL for you!” for Thanksgiving), etc.

Create a School Cheer or Motto

Collaborate with your cheerleading squad to come up with a catchy cheer for the year that will forever stick in the memories of students and faculty alike, and/or choose a school motto like “Stronger Together” or “Better Together” and develop initiatives that hold true to the motto (like a buddy program or after-school club that gathers to participate in service projects together).

Buddy Program

Pair older students with campus newbies (5th graders + Kinder, 8th+6th, 12th+9th) that are willing to be buddies for the year and to spend time showing younger students the ropes. Schedule a time for the older buddies to give the younger students a tour before the first day of school (use SignUp to coordinate!), designate a day of the week as “buddy lunch day”, set up playground and after-school buddy activities, etc.

Meet the Principal Luncheons

Over the first week or two of school, use SignUp to organize lunches with the principal – give students and staff the opportunity to get to know the school’s primary leader! This is especially great for new faculty members and new students, but everyone should be given the opportunity to join in.

Spirit Days

Choose a day of the week – Fridays are a great pick since the week is winding down – and a different theme each week. Ask students and staff to dress according to the theme. Choose a few impartial judges to select a winner and present them with a prize during lunch or the pep rally. Get theme ideas here! 

Door Decor Contest

An oldie but a goodie, decorating classroom and office doors is still a fantastic way to drum up excitement for a new school year. Choose a theme for the whole school this year and make it a contest – have students and faculty vote on their favorite, and award prizes for the top three selections.

Where’s Waldo? (or your mascot’s name)

Each week, have someone take photos of the school mascot in an undisclosed location. Take up-close photos, distorted photos, photos of partial items, etc. (The idea is to make it a challenge to guess where the mascot was when the photos were taken.) Post the photos on the school’s or PTO’s social media accounts or website. Ask students to guess the location – those that guess correctly are entered into a weekly drawing for a prize.

Spirit Competitions

Organize spirit-related competitions that are sure to elicit laughs from everyone involved. Who can create the silliest hat for the school mascot? Who is the best at dressing up like a favorite teacher or other school faculty member? Who can answer the most questions about the school’s history?

Appreciation Notes

Write and hand out notes of appreciation to the teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, school nurses, coaches, office personnel and other staff that make a successful school year possible. 

Pro Tip: Get printable thank you notes or ideas for messaging here. 

School Photo Booth

Engage the art teacher or students to set up a colorful themed background (think school colors or mascot) or make your own photo booth frame out of a large piece of foam core. Invite students and staff to strike a pose and ask them to share their photos on their social media pages and to tag the school.

Spirit Rocks

Spread school spirit and positivity while teaching kindness by asking students and faculty to paint rocks with cheerful messaging on them. (“You got this!” “You’re beautiful.” “Don’t stop until you’re proud.” “Never give up.” “Lovely learner!” “Today is going to be a great day.”) Place them in various spots on the school campus and task students and staff to see how many different ones they can find throughout the semester.

Unity + Diversity Mural

Ask an art teacher or students to create a design for a school mural that will promote unity and diversity, with the goal of making every student feel welcomed and included. Then recruit art students (or ask student and faculty volunteers) to paint the masterpiece on a designated wall on school grounds – near the school office, in the gym, or wherever it makes the most sense for your school. (One simple idea is painting giant puzzle pieces on the wall and then asking volunteer painters to customize a puzzle piece with something that represents themselves and their friends.)

Spirit Stick

Make a school spirit stick and, at the Friday afternoon pep rally each week, present it to the class (grade) that had the most participation in your Spirit Day theme. Homeroom or first period teachers can tally up the number of students participating to determine the winning class. This is a loud, fun, and competitive way to pump up the school spirit!

Achievement Recognition

Which student went above and beyond this month to live by the school motto? Ask teachers and other staff members to pay attention and make nominations of students that showed kindness or stepped up as a school leader each month, or provide tickets they can hand out when they spot someone deserving recognition. At the end of the month, students can submit any tickets they received to be part of a raffle to win a coveted prize. 

Pro Tip: Be sure to recognize ALL nominees by announcing their names and/or presenting them with a certificate of appreciation for being a great school representative.

Team Building Activities

Get folks working and laughing together with fun team activities and events – like a school staff or school-wide scavenger hunt, a students versus faculty competition (think sports, obstacle course, or assembly activity), or a team trivia event.

Senior Parking Spots or Sidewalk Segments

Your school’s seniors have worked hard to become the “top dogs” – they deserve a little extra attention in their final year! Work with your school administration to assign a parking spot or segment of sidewalk to each senior and allow them to personalize their spots with paint – a solo project or they can ask their friends to help.


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