“You witness their faces when they see their buddies in the hallway and give them a high-five or just say hi. Their faces light up. They think it’s the coolest thing in the world.”
Middle School math teacher and seventh-grade class advisor Elise Green was describing the unique bond that forms between her students and their Lower School Buddies. A rotating group of 12 older kids heads down to the junior kindergarten classroom once a week to play games or do crafts. Click here to see it.
This informal mentorship program is more than five years old, and, in Green’s estimation, an unqualified success. Middle School Head Rudy Sharpe, Ph.D., explained, “Service learning and character education are significant parts of a Middle School education. The more opportunities we can provide for students to practice empathy and kindness, the more likely it is that they will carry these qualities into their later teen years. This program benefits not only the younger children but also our seventh-graders as they develop poise, self-confidence, and important relational skills.”
Green said, “It’s good for the seventh graders to give back. It helps them grow as a person and really builds character, patience and listening. It helps them become role models.”
As Lower School teacher Kevia Walton explained, “The JK students are still learning the basic math concepts presented through these games and still need an older student or a teacher to have them stop and count again or look at the math symbol one more time and think about what it represents. Their older schoolmates will be able to give them that little reminder that keeps the game meaningful to their mathematical concept development.”
One happy side effect of older buddies teaching the little ones math in a way they love is that the kids also get a solid handle on the days of the week. “They know when it’s Thursday,” Green said. “They start asking their teachers, ‘Is it buddy day today?’”
“The seventh graders realize what kind of impact they have when they see how much the kids look forward to seeing them,” Green continued.
“It’s good for the students to feel valued and feel appreciated by the little ones in their own little ways and it’s good for the older kids to help their in-house community,” Green said.
“Everybody definitely benefits.”