The day after report cards are sent home, the students in Dolores Hunt’s first-grade classroom listen anxiously for their principal’s footsteps in the hall.
“Here he comes!” they shout joyously as Pennington Elementary Principal Bob Halpin arrives to inspect their grades.
Why so much excitement?
Because Halpin brings a basket brimming with weepuls [aka weeples, pom-poms with googly eyes] — doughnut-hole-sized bits of brightly colored fur with shaky eyes and sticky feet.
“They look small, but they sure are big to those children,” says Hunt, who explains that students earn weepuls based on their report card grades.
There are only three ways to get the coveted weepuls: The students can make straight As, they can make a majority of As and Bs, or they can take the most popular route bringing their grade up one letter in any subject.
But the students at Pennington are meeting the challenge, and Halpin reports that about 90% of them have received a weepul this year. At report card time, Halpin distributes approximately 500 of the furry creatures to the 370 Pennington students many of whom are eligible for three weepuls at once.
“I get two every time,” says second-grader Buffy Copeland, who likes to stick pink weepuls to her pocketbook.
Sticking it to the weepuls
According to Halpin, the weepuls turn up almost everywhere. Students stick them to their notebooks, their clothing and even themselves.
“One kid in my class stuck his right in the middle of his forehead,” says third-grader Ben McIntosh, who has earned 10 weepuls this year. Ben says he usually gets his weepuls for making straight A’s, and he collects the stick-ons at home.
“I like to play with them,” says Rachel Jenkins, a kindergarten student who says she takes her weepuls home so her younger sister and brother can play with them, too. She adds that she “works hard” to make sure she will get a weepul.
Hunt explains that the weepuls work well as a “motivational tool” because so many of the children earn them, and the others don’t want to be left out
“A couple of times I would have a student that was the only one who didn’t get one, but you better believe that next time they earned one,” she says. Hunt credits the furry reward with inspiring one student to bring his spelling grade up from an F to an A.
“His mother even bought a small computer to help him learn to spell,’ she adds. “We’re not only motivating the children — we’re motivating the parents. too.”
Halpin cites “significant improvement” in the school’s achievement test scores this year as evidence the weepuls are working. And teachers say they see a change in their student’s attitude about their grades
“Students kept up with their grades this year because they wanted to know if they were going to get that weepul,” says Hunt. “They weren’t as grade-conscious last year. And we don’t have to keep reminding them to bring their report card back, either. The next morning, that card is sitting right on their desks. They don’t forget.”
The weepul program m born in a meeting between representatives of Pennington Elementary and representatives of Northern Telecom. which adopted the school under Project PENCIL
“We wanted something tangible to recognize the students who do well in their studies something to give them enthusiasm,” says Mike Brandon of Northern Telecom. “We also wanted to recognize the students get a slow start for whatever reason but then come along and improve.”
When the teachers on the committee saw the weepuls, “a sales gimmick” used by Northern Telecom, they knew they had found a reward “the children would love,” Brandon recalls.
Halpin and Brandon agree that they want to continue the program next year. and they are planning to meet with members of the Board of Education early this summer to discuss how other primary schools could benefit from a similar program.
At Pennington, teachers are already preparing for another year of weepuls.
Second-grade teacher Marion Finneil plans to make a “giant weepul costume to greet the kids on the first day of school and get them excited about the program. “If I have to, I’ll wear it myself.” she insists.
Give Weepuls In Mag Sale (1979)
From The Daily News (Huntingdon, Pennsylvania) – November 9, 1979
By Suzy Atkins
Weepul. W-E-E-P-U-L, weepul. let’s see, that would fit in somewhere between weeping and weevil. Glancing through the dictionary I found no such word. What are these weepuls? Do you train them to sit on your collar? Are they housebroken?
I quickly discovered that these small fuzzy creatures are harmless. They represented the smallest of the “Plateau Awards” given to Juniata Valley students participating in the recent junior high magazine sale.
To earn a weepul, you had to sell at least one subscription. other “Plateau Awards” consisted of a mug with the school’s mascot pictured and the school’s title printed above it. To earn this you had to turn in four orders. For eight orders you received a flying spider able to be suspended from the celling. Twelve people accepted music certificates for selling 12 or more magazines. Four of the students handed in 16 or more orders and obtained a large stuffed wild coyote. The highest of the “Plateau Awards” was a pocket camera claimed by Tracy Evans for selling 20 magazines.
The first turn-in day, October 8, was the most exiting. Besides the Weepuls, it was considered to the “Special Day Awards” day and a “Mystery Student” was chosen at random. To win the “Special Day Award” you had to be the high salesman in your homeroom and you could earn a pair of mock suspenders.
The eighth grade class turned in a total of $1807.67, that’s an average of $45.19 per student. The goal this year was set for $7,500, but with such determination, the money overflowed until it reached the peak of $8827.28.