Eighth Graders Alexis Hehn ’22 and Ella Miller ’22 co-wrote this blog post to describe the Lower School Buddy Program from a student’s perspective.
Around two years ago, an idea was brought up during a Middle School Student Government meeting between nine seventh and eighth grade students sitting in Mrs. Corsey’s office. Mrs. Corsey is the Director of Middle School Student Life and led Middle School Student Government last year and this year. The idea at the time was very vague, and most thought that it was too big to accomplish. Our goal was to establish a way for Middle School and Lower School to share a connection. We wanted lower schoolers to get to know us, and to provide middle schoolers with the opportunity of being a teacher and having responsibility. So, with that goal in mind, we began the planning process for the Lower School Buddy Program. After many presentations, powerpoints, emails, worksheets, and planning in Mrs. Corsey’s office, the Lower School Buddy Program was finally ready to take flight.
After initial approval from Mrs. Corsey and Middle School Director Mrs. Clarkson to come up with a proposal, the first thing we needed to do was to create a presentation so that we could clear out the jumble of ideas we had and set a firm path to follow. We began to tackle big questions, such as where and when we would meet with the lower schoolers. We didn’t know if it was going to happen during Activity (the class period when we have electives like Student Government, MathCounts, Science Olympiad, Robotics, Newspaper, arts ensembles, and other things), lunch, or after school, and it was very difficult to work around the Middle and Lower School schedules. However, after many emails to and from Lower School, it became clear that our activity period, which happens once every 6 days, would be best for the Lower School Buddy Program. We did not know how many classes we would be able to visit, so we had to wait to address that until our presentation.
After more weeks of planning and a summer of work, we had a second presentation. During this presentation, we proposed our idea and plan to Mrs. Clarkson and Lower School Director Mrs. Banik. It was nerve wracking, and we all wanted it to go well. Afterwards, we were asked many eye-opening questions that helped us to realize that there was still a lot of work to be done to make the Lower School Budy Program work.
The next problem to tackle would be who would be meeting with the Lower School. If it was going to be an activity, should Middle School Student Government test it out first? Should we allow for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders to participate? What is the number of Middle Schoolers we can accept into the activity? Many different questions were brought up, and we had to work through each one carefully. After many discussions, Middle School Student Government decided that the activity should only be open to 7th and 8th graders. The students would essentially be leading the class entirely for the whole activity period, and that requires a lot of responsibility. The next problem was addressing how many middle schoolers could actually sign up for the activity.
After more planning and presentations, we were finally ready to start the Lower School Buddy Program. It would take place on A day during the activity period, and we would cover the two kindergarten and prekindergarten classrooms. We would be split into groups of four, one group for each class, and every time we would visit them we would have a new activity planned for that day. During every class, we would have something new and fun that we could do together with the children. It was surreal when we had our first activity with the lower schoolers, and it was very nostalgic for those nine Middle School Student Government kids who two years ago had begun planning the idea.
The first time we went down into the classroom, the younger students were eager to listen and learn from us. We all split into groups of 4-5 people to go into each classrooms (Prekindergarten and Kindergarten). We introduced ourselves and began to find games and different, fun ways to connect with the students. We did a few icebreakers such as tossing the ball around and saying our names, our favorite food, and favorite color.
Since then, the kids look forward to seeing us every single week. Whenever we enter the classroom, their eyes light up. We always come prepared with new arts, crafts, and games to do. We normally spend about half an hour with them, meaning that it is sometimes hard to find things to do in such little time. When we first ran into this problem, we decided to work in stations, fixing our time management problem.
The things that we observed were that the younger students enjoyed picking out books for us to read with them. In some of the classes we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. We have made arts and crafts with them, such as playing with model magic and making letters with it. For this particular activity, we would ask the students “what words can you make with that letter,” and “what are some activities you can name that start with the same letter.” When we came back from spring break, we brought in another activity where we had them draw the fun things they did over spring break.
The Lower School Buddy Program has been a life-changing experience. We have connected with the children, taught them things, and we have had so much fun in this activity. This activity also has given middle schoolers many valuable life and problem solving skills. For example, if we ever become teachers or have our own children, we will know what activities to do, how to act, and how to be responsible around them. It is very rewarding to see our hard work from the past two years paying off, and we cannot wait to see where the Lower School Buddy program will go in the future.
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