The Buddies Program
In education, academics are not everything, and thus we do a lot at Akiba-Schechter to foster a sense of community. We have always had multi-age classrooms, but in the past few years we’ve instituted a Buddies Program, in which younger and older students work, learn and have fun together. Here, 3rd/4th grade teacher Miriam Kass shares how the Buddies Program works for her students:
Throughout the school year, 3rd/4th graders will get together with their Kindergarten buddies to celebrate Shabbat and other holidays, to read and write stories, and to do some mitzvah projects. Each get-together allows the buddies to strengthen their friendship and create a feeling of community across the grades and the two buildings. For the Kindergartner, the buddy friendship puts a warm and friendly face on what might appear to be the big kids’ school where taller children are weighed down by big backpacks and often seem to be in a hurry to and from the bus. For the 3rd/4th grader, the buddy friendship provides a welcome opportunity to try out his/her leadership skills. The buddy friendships are unique in the lives of the students; both the older and the younger child feel cared for in an unqualified way.
Last week, the 3rd and 4th graders looked just a bit taller as they headed back to their classroom from the first meeting with their Kindergarten buddies. They had each made a new friend and felt proud of their new role.
“That was so much fun,” said one 4th grade boy, “and my buddy is so cute!”
While the 3- or 4-year age difference is small in our eyes, it is vast in the eyes of both the older and younger students.
One 3rd grade girl reminisced about her days in Kindergarten when “8-year-olds were practically adults” in her mind, and yet “that feels like it was just last week.”
The Buddies Program definitely brings the ages closer together to benefit from each other.