LEHI -- Sego Lily Elementary School has adopted a food-free reward program that has put students and teachers in a collection frenzy.
Spirit sticks are thin rectangular patches students can collect on a Sego Lily key ring attached to their backpacks. A wide variety of sticks can be earned for different good behaviors.
As part of emphasis on healthy lifestyle, Sego Lily principal Courtney Johnson wanted to come up with a way to motivate children without candy and treats. A teacher found spirit sticks while searching on Pinterest.
Children can get Spirit Sticks for perfect attendance, participating in the principal's writing challenge, good behavior in the hall, extra effort on an assignment, learning math facts, collecting box tops or just about anything for which a teacher wants to give them out.
Students also can receive them for birthdays or holidays. One teacher has ordered a custom spirit stick students get just for being in her class.
"Last year I gave out soda for perfect attendance and I felt guilty. This is less money and the kids like it more," Johnson said.
Sego Lily students and teachers love the program. Johnson said her initial order was already snatched up by teachers for use in their classrooms and she's putting in another order.
"I want to earn them all," fourth-grader Gavin Elison said. He has six already.
"It's fun because it encourages you to do your best," fourth-grader Olivia Johnston said. "My friend's little sister has a Smarty one that looks like Smarties. I'm going to try to get one of those."
Teachers and administrators say the program is working.
"The time I used a spirit stick as a motivator it was like a magic wand," fourth-grade teacher Sheri Rivera said.
The number of students enrolled in the school's extra hour of instruction or "Double Dipping" program has grown tremendously since students can get a spirit stick for it.
Students have gone out of their way to help teachers and administrators with carrying books and boxes.
"All the kids are trying to think of ways to earn them. When a sixth-grader picks a spirit stick over a candy bar, you're on track." Johnson said.
Johnson said spirit sticks work because it's a public recognition of achievement and a way for students to feel good about themselves.
"The focus is on what to do, not on punishment. You want it to be positive and fun," Johnson said.
"We're not giving them sugar. I'm sure most parents appreciate that a lot," Rivera said.
The spirit sticks are made by Spirit Monkey, a Texas company. They can be customized and cost about 25 cents each.