Programs and Culture at Bates

At the Bates School, we are proud to serve a diverse group of learners who are encouraged to explore how they are part of our school community while being proud of their individual identities. Students are sorted into “houses” where they build community among their team and share what they love about who they are and where they come from.

Bates House System

Bates House System


Altruismo traces its origins to the rainforests of the Amazon, where a group of powerful Brazilians were given the name because of the Portuguese meaning behind it: “the Givers.”

This special group is known for striking a balance between bold strength and altruistic giving — a team that knows that real power comes not from looking out for yourself but from empowering others. They care deeply about lifting others up, but they also maintain a fiercely competitive spirit and pride. Historically, the House has been known for its smart and driven students, and Altruismo has produced more valedictorians per class to this day. Altruismo takes great pride in being a cultivator of real leadership and instills a strong spirit within new members to grow into and live up to this legacy.


Amistad is the House that originates from Spain. A group of individuals that are quiet but powerful, they are known most for their kindness of heart. This is why, in the language of their ancestry, their name means “friendship.”

Incoming members are often a mix of extremes — our students can be extremely intelligent, creative, friendly, and competitive; Amistad is a very diverse group! The House takes great inspiration from its symbolic animal, the peacock, and the leaders always remind the members of this saying: “Once the peacock finds its feathers, it discovers who it really is.” The encouragement is for each student to find his or her own feathers and discover their brilliance. While students may enter timidly, they learn to become brave as they find their true selves.


Isibindi is a tight-knit group of individuals, like a pride of African lions, where family means everything. The House’s symbolic animals, the mute swan and the lion, serve to empower incoming members. While new students might be quiet or shy at first, the longer that they are in the House, the more they begin to display the characteristics of strength and bravery. In Zulu, Isibindi means “courage.”

The dichotomy of sharing symbolic animals between the gentle and beautiful swan and
the proud and courageous lion is what makes Isibindi so unique. It is a House that inherits the legend and influence of both Shaka Zulu as well as Nelson Mandela. It is a House that knows when to be strategic and creative, or when to pull back and be reserved, but also when to go full force with power and strength. This is why Isibindi welcomes creative and quiet kids and turns them into leaders over time. They learn that, like the mute swan, their
quiet creativity can be harnessed to speak volumes in its own way.


Rêveur is a royal House whose name in French means “dreamers” or “idealists” — because the members who fill this group are students filled with freedom and wild abandon who recognize their dreams and will let nothing stand in the way of achieving them. This can be seen in the unicorn, which is on the center of the House’s crest, a powerful creature who is almost impossible to tame. Similarly, the House of Rêveur is a House of passion.

bates classroom photo


Houses provide students with a culture of belonging. The first day of school can be a stressful moment for young and new students, and some may feel out of place or like they don’t know where they fit in. But when they are drawn into a house by the end of the month, they are greeted with the roar of applause and cheers from other students in all grade levels welcoming them into this new, special group. Throughout the year, each student’s personal accomplishments are then rewarded with points that collectively count toward his/her House. This gives students an opportunity to be recognized and thanked by their peers daily for their individual contributions to the overall team. At Bates, good behavior and academic success are revered among students because they all know that students’ success helps their own House get closer and closer to winning the championship.

Bates students working on project


The House System is a unique and creative cross- age group approach to building a community that will strengthen the social and academic lives of students. Traditionally, schools are split up into grades and students never interact with older or younger peers. In a House, students are able to interact with peers from other grade levels. With this, the older students become support systems to younger ones who are struggling or need advice — and they in turn grow as leaders themselves when they are able to pour into the younger ones in this way.

And this mentoring community extends to the teachers and staff as well. Every adult in the school participate in the House System because it instantly gives them an opportunity to form strong bonds with a smaller group of students in their House. Additionally, it enables a playful sense of competition with students of other Houses. This type of role modeling and mentorship, provided on a consistent basis to students as they go through each grade of the school, can be exponentially valuable to their growth!

student with red shirt drawing


The House System builds character with a reward system that goes beyond something like
earning a piece of candy from a candy jar for doing something good. Instead, each student’s achievements add to a
collective group, making the reward communal and social. We have seen this change the way that a student perceives
points over time: what may start as extrinsic motivation in the beginning turns into intrinsic motivation as the student
realizes the behavioral and academic traits and ethics that are valued by their peers.

Town Hall

On days when Bates has early dismissal, the school has their Town Hall Meeting. The school community gathers together in their houses to celebrate, display their house cheer and chants, and learn and practice a character building skill. Every Town Hall ends in a friendly game between houses.

Healthy Competition

It’s important for the House System to promote a sense of healthy competition — this encourages students to learn how to be team players, contribute their efforts toward a group, and learn that those who work hard and stick with it are often the ones rewarded.

The key is to promote a culture of constructive competition. The staff’s involvement is so important to this! They can model a playful competitive spirit that celebrates wins, learns from mistakes, and accepts loss gracefully. Through this, students can learn that the most important part of it all is just their own dedication and participation.