BUDDIES BRIDGE AGE GAP
You could light a small city with the energy created when our middle school students would visit our lower campus at the beginning of every month.
Known as First Friday this monthly gathering of Seabury students, teachers and staff rocked the building as students rolled from classroom to classroom to engage in various creative activities while building school unity and pride.
At noon pizza would arrive. Then kids of all ages would flood the playground before our middle schoolers would board the bus for the return trip to downtown Tacoma.
Nine months have come and gone since our last First Friday. As much as we hated to hit the pause button, COVID-19 gave us no choice. The app that could support a virtual First Friday has yet to be invented.
But there is one feature of First Friday that is actually growing during distance learning – a buddy system that matches middle schoolers with kindergarteners for one-on-one play and conversation.
In years past middle school teacher Gabrielle Plastrik would encourage her students to pair up with kindergarten students – a.k.a. the Bumblebees – as a regular part of First Friday. When Covid-19 put First Friday on hold last spring, a few buddies continued to meet virtually, but not many.
This year almost every kindergartener jumped at the chance to be marched with a virtual buddy after Mimi Lewis, our kindergarten teacher, asked families if they would be interested. Our middle school students were equally eager as about half volunteered to participate.
So far eight pairs of buddies are in the early stages of working out how and when they’ll connect virtually.
Middle schooler Charlotte and her Bumblebee buddy Olivia have already meet twice on Zoom. “Our first time we did a couple of arts and crafts with paper,” Charlotte said. “The next time we ate lunch and played Pictionary.”
Charlotte and Olivia plan to meet every Wednesday for an hour or so for the foreseeable future. “It’s great to hang out with other kids even if they’re younger, That makes it even better because right now we’re only with kids our own age,” said Charlotte, an eighth-grader.
“It’s good for both groups,” said Gabrielle. “The littles get one-on-one attention while the bigs develop leaderships skills and gain a sense of how it feels to do something good.”
The opportunity for companionship is especially welcome right now given the limitations imposed by coronavirus restrictions.
“I think it is really important during distance learning because the social element of school is the hardest one to recreate at a distance – especially for kindergartners,” Mimi said. “It makes my kids feel important to have an older special friend. And parents are grateful for the joy it brings their kids.”