RCS Buddies: Where students learn by teaching
ROYALSTON – It’s been said that the best way to become a better learner is to spend some time being a teacher, and that’s exactly what happens each and every Friday at the Royalston Community School when the sixth graders pair up with their little buddies in the kindergarten for some quality one-on-one time and a special activity or project.
Eighteen big buddies from Brian Snell’s sixth grade class develop then lead age-appropriate activities or projects for their little buddies, 22 kindergartners from Jessica Willhite’s kindergarten classroom. This past week, the young teachers prepared and cut out components to create stand-up dinosaurs, which their younger students colored, assembled and then used for some creative – and rather loud – play.
The unsuspecting visitor may have thought the ID-wearing faculty had vacated the premises; chaos unleashed was the first impression when walking in on some 40 children all giving instructions, asking questions or telling stories – oh, the stories! But on second glance, Willhite, para-professional Brenda Hopkins, Snell and paraprofessional Janice Trask were monitoring and assisting where necessary.
On the tables – well, mostly on the tables, but also on the floor and occasionally on chairs – hundreds of crayons, markers and colored pencils were strewn about; there were scissors, shreds of paper hither, thither and yon. As students got into the project, they shucked sweaters and sweatshirts and dropped them at the point of removal.
The sixth graders taught by telling, demonstrating and reinforcing, and were learning patience and ways to communicate effectively with children who are remarkably different from a developmental standpoint. The kindergartners were learning how to follow instructions and developing fine motor skills, but mostly, they were having a great time and enjoying the special attention from someone they not just like, but truly admire.
Roaring intermittently punctuated the chatter as the young students and their young teachers wrapped up the project. Before too long, scissors had been put away, the crayons, markers and colored pencils were in their appropriate containers and the bits and pieces of paper made it into the trash.
In addition to the planned Fridays, the buddies get together fairly frequently for a special activity, or during a school-wide presentations. At the beginning of the year, sixth graders initially shepherded their little buddies and helped them feel comfortable in their new school, but as their relationships have developed, Snell’s students understand they are seriously-taken role models and need to demonstrate behaviors expected at RCS – Respectful, Cooperative and Safe.
There’s no telling when or where the buddies will team up, or what they will do when next they’re together, but it will be a learning experience for all concerned and lots of fun!