BUDDIES - A Look at the Advantages of Multi-age Relationships
Written by Zoe Lozano, Amazing Educational Assistant
Do you remember that feeling of an older kid coming up to you and helping you solve a problem? Inviting you to join in on their game? Offering to read you a book? How did that feel?
Perhaps you had feelings of recognition, acceptance, belonging, or were simply in awe that someone older was acknowledging you. Or maybe you can recall a time where you offered your support as an older student. Helped someone younger tie their shoe? Noticed a younger student was left out and included them in what you were doing? Offered to read someone a book?
Feelings of responsibility, caring, and purpose might have arisen. At Sycamore this idea of younger vs. older doesn’t apply. We, staff members and our students, acknowledge that all ages have something to offer, therefore, we make it a priority to give our students an opportunity to engage with other grades in order to share their skills, advice, and guidance. We do this in several ways; during our freeplay, our specialists’ days, collaborating on theme, and even on field trips.
One big part of Thursdays at Sycamore includes a time devoted to mentoring and sharing with our oldest and youngest students. During this time the fifth graders link up with our kindergarten and first grade class in the afternoon. During their time together they collaborate by playing games, reading books, completing activities, or doing art projects. Not only does a buddy system help to promote friendships among all ages, it also:
- helps the younger and new students transition into the school community
- helps to develop social skills and values
- builds confidence
- promotes inclusion
- develops responsibility
This past week the buddies went on a field trip together to the pumpkin patch. Below are some examples from our trip that demonstrate how our buddy system creates a positive and caring school culture.
Before going to the pumpkin patch, the fifth graders acknowledged how essential they would be on this field trip. The day before, they were made aware that they would have two younger students to look after. As a class, they discussed which ways they could be of assistance to their buddies and to the adults. Topics of these conversations included; making sure you were always with your buddies, if your buddy needs help, could you assist them or get an adult to help you and getting to know your buddies better. The fifth graders talked about being kind and having conversations with their buddies by asking questions to make them feel comfortable and safe. The fifth graders went into this field trip knowing it would be a lot of responsibility. At the same time, they were excited and ready. “I want to be a good role model but sometimes it’s hard because I want to do things fast, but when I was with my buddy I tried to slow down” (SJ)
In order to prepare the kindergarten and first grade class for their field trip, they also discussed what was expected of them and what they could anticipate happening at the pumpkin patch. Just like the fifth graders, the younger students were made aware that they would have buddies looking after them and that we would be doing some fun activities such as a pumpkin lesson, a wagon ride, selecting a pumpkin, and going through a corn maze.
For a few of the students, the idea of going through a corn maze caused some anxiety; “What do we do if we get to a dead end?” “What do we do if we do not know where to turn?” “What happens if we get lost?” Even after talking about what could be done in certain situations, worries still sat with some. However, once at the corn maze, the support of their fifth grade buddies really helped create a safe environment for the kindergarten and first graders, giving them the confidence they needed to step into the corn maze and take on the challenge. “There were a lot of dead ends and I couldn’t read the story so my buddy helped me”(LL)
Lastly, when it came to picking pumpkins, the fifth graders really shined in demonstrating how to talk to each other and why being so kind is important. The fifth graders did this by questioning what kind of pumpkin their buddies were looking for, helping them find those pumpkins, putting their pumpkins into bags, making sure their names were on their pumpkins, and finally carrying their pumpkins for them when they became too heavy to hold. “I enjoy being with the little ones because they need help and I like helping them.” (VS)
Just by looking at our fifth-grade buddies, it is clear that there are major benefits of giving students the opportunity to mingle with other grades. Younger students get a caring mentor to demonstrate what it is like to be part of a community by offering help academically and physically, showing kindness, and feeling included and seen. Meanwhile, older students have the chance to learn what it takes to be a good role model, by gaining more responsibility and building confidence. And across ages, great friendships are growing!