THE PK4 / GRADE 4 BUDDY EXPERIENCE
Big Buddy/Little Buddy. Just those words make my students get excited because whatever comes next is bound to be fun for them. Big Buddy/Little Buddy lunch, Big Buddy/Little Buddy T-ball, Big Buddy/Little Buddy Halloween hands . . . the list goes on. The activities aren’t just fun for the students. There are other benefits as well, for both the younger and older buddy.
The little buddy is given a friendly face around campus, other than a teacher. This helps build a sense of a safe community to many new four-year-old students. The big buddy is given a sense of responsibility being a mentor and “in charge” of a younger student. Having buddies helps build a community of inclusion on a campus that has students ranging from age three to 10.
At our Flag ceremony each morning, the fourth graders and the four-year-olds stand together, many of them holding hands or hugging (if the little one misses mom or dad). At first, conversation is hard for both sides. As time goes on, however, you can see a bond quickly forming between the two that they will each remember forever. The hugs and waves that are exchanged in the courtyard make every adult gush at how big they are all getting and how far they have all come. It is always sad to say goodbye to our buddies at the end of the year, but they will meet again someday on the upper campus.
As the fourth graders move to the upper campus, their role changes from “Big Buddy” to “Little Buddy” as they now become the youngest on campus, and are paired with a senior who can show them the ropes and be a friendly face in the hallways and during fun activities.
Below are some comments from lower school students about the buddy program:
PK4 students said, "My buddy is awesome because . . ."
…he plays football.
…she has a pretty voice.
…she’s so funny.
…he takes care of us at Flag.
…she is so, so, so, so friendly.
Grade 4 students were asked, "What has the buddy program taught me?"
…to be a better role model ... it is more work to do the right thing when they are watching you
…to be a better person and to understand younger kids more
…to be more kind, respectful, patient, and to love
…having a buddy is a big job...they are a big responsibility
…it has helped me with self-control because I have to be patient
THE GRADE 5 / GRADE 12 BUDDY EXPERIENCE
The Knowlton Campus buddy program is a component of educating the whole child; Grade 5 students are matched with seniors who serve as friends, mentors, and guides. It is an age-appropriate step up from the Hough Campus buddy program.
This program began in 2004, as a student-initiated request following the fifth graders moving to the Knowlton Campus (the Hough campus formerly educated students in grades PK-5). Fifth graders and their senior buddies enjoy monthly activities, including snacks, mentoring, games, arts and crafts, and seasonal treats. Any time spent together outside of the school day is at the discretion of the families of the students.
The buddies first meet each year during an ice cream social a few days before Senior Investiture. In this ceremony, the seniors run a Chapel program in which they are formally recognized as leaders in the school. Grade 5 students rise as their buddies walk across the stage in the Senior Investiture program. After the program ends, the fifth graders are the first to congratulate their senior buddies as they join them on stage and often share hugs (and sometimes flowers or cards).
In August of 2015, I was in the cafeteria with the middle and upper school principals, every member of the Class of 2016, and the senior advisors and fifth grade advisors, waiting on the fifth graders to arrive for our traditional “meet and greet” kickoff buddy activity, where we introduce them to each other during an ice cream social.
The seniors heard the pack of fifth graders approaching the café doors. Burchie Ellinger (Class of 2016) quickly called out to her classmates, “Let’s make a tunnel!” The fifth graders came through the double doors and were met with a tunnel of outstretched arms and cheers from their newly-assigned senior buddies. The looks on their faces (ALL of their faces, actually) were priceless—full of joy and enthusiasm.
I have witnessed plenty of celebration tunnels at the end of kids’ soccer games, but I never imagined seniors making a tunnel for their fifth grade buddies at their first meeting. That memory sums up the Knowlton Campus buddy program---seniors celebrating their fifth grade buddies, and fifth graders feeling much more at ease on the big “Upper Campus” with seniors who always have their backs.
Below are some comments from middle and upper school students about the buddy program:
Grade 5 students said, "My senior buddy is awesome because . . ."
…he is a straight baller [a good basketball player].
…she always gives me hugs.
…he is very smart, fun to be around, and always listens to me, never in a bad mood.
…he understands me.
…she is nice and always has an amazing attitude.
"I love the buddy program because . . ."
…we get to do fun activities every month.
…we get to learn about the school from the seniors.
…it connects two different grade levels to become mentor and mentee.
…you try new things.
…it gets you excited to hang out with new people.
Grade 12 students said, "My fifth grade buddy is awesome because . . ."
…she is beautiful inside and out and always has super cool shoes.
…he is so energetic and enthusiastic.
…she is a hugger just like me.
…she is athletic! We both play volleyball and she has even helped me to get better at the game.
…she is always excited to spend time together.
"I love the buddy program because . . ."
…it gives us an opportunity to mentor someone younger.
…I get to make a new friend.
…it helps remind me how important it is to set a good example for the community.
…we get to know younger students we otherwise would rarely interact with.
…it reminds me that there is more to life than just getting into college.