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Family Time makes space for fun and relationship-building

Grade levels mix, connect during seminar period

Kent City — It’s 10:45 a.m. on a Friday at Kent City Middle School: Family Time.

English teacher Nicole Lindeboom is leading a drawing game for a rowdy mix of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.  “I honestly really enjoy this,” she said. 

Family Time is “an opportunity during the school day for teachers to build relationships,” said Principal Jordan Stuhan. It was started by Kent City Community Schools Assistant Superintendent Bill Crane, a former athletic director, several years ago.

From left, Paola Quintana-Puente, Gracie Goguen and Brooklyn Smith celebrated a birthday in their ‘family’ with popsicles

Down the hall from Lindeboom’s classroom, another group of students is designing and testing paper airplanes. Still another is celebrating a birthday with popsicles. In the gym, four “families” are competing in a dodgeball tournament. Each family includes a small group of students from each grade level and a teacher.

Family Time teachers can be role models and mentors for students outside of academics.

“One of our main goals was to give every kid an adult,” said Curt Gerbers, behavior interventionist and former teacher, who has led groups himself over the years. Students now in high school still recognize him as part of their “family.” 

Kent City Middle School recently revamped its daily schedule, shifting from six periods to seven to make space for a flexible seminar period. It’s then that Family Time groups meet.

Stuhan said he enjoys “seeing individual teachers get super creative” with the time. Groups participate in a variety of activities planned by their teachers, but students are encouraged to bring in snacks and activities to share, too. One group is planning a Super Bowl-themed party for their next meeting.

“I love (Family Time),” said sixth-grader Judith Reed. “I get to see my friends and have fun.” Judith said the perks of Family Time also include getting closer to her teacher and, of course, playing dodgeball. For eighth-grader Roslynn Roest, it’s simply “extra time to do things you like.”

Seventh- and eighth-grade teacher Nicole Lindeboom and her Family Time group used the period to play a drawing game

Last year, COVID-19 regulations prevented Family Time groups from combining grade levels, but now, with mask mandates lifted, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are once again mixed. For eighth-grader Avery Lantzer, that’s one of the good things about the time: “It lets you get to know more people.”

Said Lindeboom, Family Time is a chance to connect with students she might not otherwise get to know. “It’s a small school,” she said, “but it makes it smaller.”

Explore more unique video stories of students learning, interesting school programs and educators working to help all children succeed.

Behavior interventionist Curt Gerbers judges a paper airplane contest during Family Time at Kent City Middle School

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Abigail Ham, SNN intern
Abigail Ham is an intern reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She is a junior at Calvin University. She is the managing editor of Calvin’s student newspaper Chimes and editorial assistant for the academic journal Pedagogy. She also enjoys creative writing of all sorts.

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