One thing you can say about the students throughout the Los Altos School District—they definitely KNOW the buddy system.
Every fall, soon after students get settled in their own classrooms, elementary school teachers pair kids from one grade with buddies from another in campus-wide Buddy Programs. It's a program kids look forward to each year and something that brings a smile to their red-cheeked faces!
And smiles were abound these last few weeks as each school launched its buddy system and younger-aged students were matched with kids in older grades. For example, the Buddy program at Gardner Bullis pairs sixth graders with first graders. Meanwhile, Covington matches its first graders with fifth graders, and Loyola joins kindergarteners with third graders, second graders with fourth graders and first with sixth graders in a program that last throughout the school year.
The outcome is outstanding, according to parents, teachers and administrators. First, the older children have the unique opportunity to be role models to their younger buddies and help build social skills while at same time forging unique friendships. Meanwhile, the younger students look up to to their buddies and feel a sense of pride and belonging when they are recognized on campus by them.
The buddies also participate in some fun activities together all year long that showcase cooperative learning. At Gardener Bullis, activities the buddies share include spending time in the computer lab, creating art projects or making crafts for holidays such as Halloween. For their first trip to the school library of the year, the first graders in Ms. Accola's class were joined by the sixth graders in Miss Amato's class. After picking out books together, the sixth graders read the stories to their younger buddies.
Covington has a great buddy system that helps build friendships across ages. The program gets off to a growling start each fall as the first and fifth grade buddies celebrate a special Teddy Bear picnic whereby the children interview each other and have lunch with their stuffed animals.
"In my opinion, the buddy program is a great idea that supports responsibility as a character trait in my fellow older students," declared Covington fifth-grader Parth Dhanotra. "Because of this program, I have had the pleasure of meeting a bright, young boy with a creative mind. In many ways, I'm happy to have this program at my school."
The buddy programs are designed to enrich all students' experiences in school. At Springer, for instance, younger SDC students are paired with older SDC students and with mainstreamed students as well.
Kristine Dworkin, a Springer mom, shared her experience, "My son, who is an SDC student, is usually paired with a upper grade SDC buddy as well as a mainstream buddy of the same grade level as the Upper SDC version," she explained. "This has worked really well in the past because it has given him a buddy who can relate to him since they both have disabilities and a buddy to learn from. Mainstream buddies can offer kids on the spectrum great examples of social modeling and understanding as well as an extra layer of social protection on the playground!"
Meanwhile, fourth graders in Lily Alberts' fourth grade class are getting ready to teach their second grade buddies about California's geography and history. The older students are creating glogs, which are virtual posters on a gloster website, which they in turn have to present to their younger buddies.
"Not only do the fourth grade students have to learn how to present to this younger audience that doesn't know anything about California history yet, but the second graders get a chance to learn something and then when they get to fourth grade, they will remember what it was like and have a familiarity," Alberts explained.
IN OTHER NEWS: A big shout out goes to the Los Altos Education Fund, which is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this Friday with a free community festival from 4-8 p.m. on the Covington School Campus. The event will include carnival games, cotton candy, fire trucks, police cars, food for sale, and music. So come one, come all to check out the fun!
REMINDER: Next Weds., October 3, is International Walk To School Day, so turn off your engines and tie up your shoes as each school gets ready to foot-it to school.