Skip to main content

The City Journals

Plastic potato head toy comes to life at East Sandy Elementary

Nov 04, 2019 12:33PM ● By Julie Slama

In each classroom, students can put a piece on a Mr. Potato Head to indicate 90 percent of their classmates are to class on time. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Most East Sandy Elementary students know there are 16 plastic pieces to decorate Mr. Potato Head, the model of a potato that can be decorated with eyes, ears, shoes, a hat, glasses, a nose and a mouth.

Although the toy known today was introduced in 1952, it has gained popularity this year at East Sandy as students rush to class on time, with the incentive of placing a piece on Mr. Potato Head.

“It’s an initiative we are focusing on to be here and be on time each day,” Principal Angela Wilkinson said. “Each day the class is on time, they get to put a piece in Mr. Potato Head.” 

After all the pieces are used, they get to do something as a class — wear crazy socks, hold a paper airplane contest or even get a visit from the “real” Mr. Potato Head. When Mr. Potato Head makes his appearance, a photo is taken and posted in the room to serve as a reminder of why he visited the students.

“The kids love it and it’s motivating them to actually see how close they are to reaching their goal,” she said, adding that after the plastic Mr. Potato Head fills, the class can start over again.

Wilkinson found the idea online and while she isn’t sure if the school in another state she read about is doing it the same way, she said this method already is working at East Sandy this fall.

“So far we’re seeing a decrease in tardies and absences,” she said.

To help motivate students to be in school, the incentive is class-wide. When classes have 90% and above in attendance, horseshoes — for East Midvale’s mascot, the Mustangs — are posted above the teachers’ name in the front of the school, so students and parents can all see it.

“Attendance is important. We take a look at each individual child who is missing and if students miss two consecutive days, our teachers call and say they miss them and let them know that they care. We want them to be here and to be excited for school,” Wilkinson said.

Canyons District Responsive Services Administrator Charisse Hilton said every day of instruction counts to keep kids on track academically.

“The trick is keeping that momentum going,” she said. “Never underestimate the importance of showing up. Once established, good habits and high expectations are hard to break and will carry you far in school, work and life.”