- Sponsorship -

Older Students Help Peers Build Positive Relationships

Weighed down by a backpack filled with four textbooks, Mill Creek Middle School sixth-grader Anna Burpee ran slowly, with heavy steps, to the end of the hallway. Moments earlier, her seventh-grade mentor Leslie Walters had tucked a piece of paper with words like “stupid” and “fat” into each book before setting them into the backpack.

“How did the backpack feel?” Leslie asked.

“Heavy,” answered Anna.

“Bullying weighs down on you, and it makes it harder to get through life,” Leslie said to her group of sixth-grade mentees Anna, Andrew Field, Santi Bermudez and Julia Rice during a half-hour session of Ignite. The program pairing seventh- and eighth-grade mentors with sixth-grade mentees. Santi Bermundez attempts jumping jacks with heavy textbooks in his backpack

Younger students took turns feeling the heavy load on their back, as older students led the lesson titled “Lighten Up,” part of the Ignite program curriculum. The group meets once a month.

Creating a Positive Climate

Students focus on much more than bullying to improve the school’s climate in a positive manner and build relationships, said Donita Coughlin, Mill Creek teacher and Ignite program coordinator. It’s also about connecting older student leaders with younger students to show them the ropes, help them acclimate to secondary school and have someone to talk to.

“She teaches us good stuff,” said Anna, of Leslie. “We can understand our work better … because she helps us. If we are struggling she tells us how to not have stress.”

Mill Creek administrators started using the national program intended for high school students because they saw the benefits it could have on middle-school students. While the company that created Ignite is no longer in business, Mill Creek administrators are still using the program because of its success in the school.

Eighth-grader Dani Johnston wears her Ignite shirtMiddle school is a big change for sixth graders, and having an older student who will recognize them and address them by name in the hallway is a big help, Coughlin said.

Ashleigh DeWitt is good at bonding with her mentees. The seventh-grader has come up with hand motions and funny noises known by members of her group. They stop in the halls to give an alien-sounding “hello” or a make a prehistoric pterodactyl sound. “If they are having a bad day I can cheer them up,” Ashleigh said.

Each year, seventh- and eighth-grade students apply to be mentors and receive training to teach each lesson. About 40 mentors participate with all sixth graders.

“Without a doubt there’s been tremendous growth in attaining that secondary mindset,” said Principal Gus Harju. Hearing about behavior and school climate from peers can be very valuable, he said. “I’m always impressed with how actively listening the mentees are,” he said.Ashleigh DeWitt demonstrates a greeting she has with her mentor group

Seventh-grade mentor Sadie Essex said she always says “hi” to her group of students and encourages them. “I wanted the opportunity to bond with sixth graders and help them with the middle-school experience,” she said.

CONNECT

Comstock Park

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

LATEST ARTICLES

Fourth-grade hockey fan gets a magical hour on ice: ‘I made the shot!’

Raised as a Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins hockey fan, Jackson Solow lights up while skating on an ice rink wearing his favorite hockey jersey...

‘This time it is continued learning’

One school’s switch from in-person to virtual education last week was nearly seamless, especially when compared with the forced school closure in March...

Foundation grants $28,285 in fall funding requests

Virtual phys ed and art experiences, materials to improve classroom focus and books on social issues aimed at middle-schoolers are among the grants approved this fall...

Latest school closings expand on state-ordered high school mandate

More Kent County districts continue to announce temporary school building closures, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Comstock Park closes all schools for in-person instruction

Dave Washburn, superintendent of Comstock Park Schools, said the decision to go all-virtual was made due to the number of positive COVID-19 cases among staff and students, as well as the number of staff and students quarantined...

Laughter, lessons & support for virtual students, parents

Key to learning from home: get outside, be safely social and find ways to bond, moms say...

Superheroes, jungle explorers, Cinderella join virtual kindergarten lessons

As an all-virtual kindergarten teacher at Stoney Creek Elementary, Tiffany Imhoff is constantly adapting and tweaking her lessons to keep her students engaged and learning...
- Sponsorship -

HOW'S SCHOOL TODAY?

Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...

RADEMACHER & FRIENDS

Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -

MEDIA PARTNERS

Maranda Where You LiveWGVU

SUSTAINING SPONSORS