Elementary students learn from middle schoolers through mentorship program

  • Colt Krueger (left) reacts to a sound experiment while working with Homer Middle School eighth grader Gabe Dash during a mentor lesson Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 at Homer Middle School in Homer, Alaska. Krueger and his fellow Paul Banks Elementary first grade classmates each paired up with a middle school student and completed five different stations in a new mentorship program between the schools. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
  • Morgan Harness (left) performs a sound experiment under the guidance of her eigtht grade mentor, Caitlin Gamble, during a joint lesson Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 at Homer Middle School in Homer, Alaska. First grade students from Paul Banks Elementary were paired with the middle schoolers as they went through five different stations to teach them about sound. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
  • First grader Sawyer Johnson looks up from an experiment designed to teach him how sound works Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 at Homer Middle School in Homer, Alaska. Students from Paul Banks Elementary were paired with eighth grade mentors from the middle school as they went through different experiment stations. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
  • Jade Stewart (left) watches her mentee from Paul Banks Elementary School, Jillian Koran, perform an experiment at one of five stations Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 at Homer Middle School in Homer, Alaska. First grade students were paired up with eighth graders for a lesson on the science of sound through a mentorship program. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
  • Eighth graders from Homer Middle School and first graders from Paul Banks Elementary debrief after working together on a project on sound during a lesson at the middle school Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 in Homer, Alaska. The lesson was organized through a mentorship program recently finalized between teachers at the two schools in which the younger students are paired with and learn from the older. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Both first and eighth graders charted some somewhat unfamiliar territory on Tuesday as they teamed up to learn about the science of sound through a local mentorship program.

Wendy Todd’s first grade class from Paul Banks Elementary made the trek up to Homer Middle School on Tuesday morning, and were guided through a hands-on science lesson with five different stations by members of Jennifer Bozz’s eight grade class.

“We just finished a unit on light and sound, so these guys are teaching us about decibels and pitch and vibrations, and doing some hands-on experiments to learn more about sound,” Todd said.

Todd has been taking her students to learn from their older peers for years, but the practice became more of a formalized program at the beginning of the last school year.

“Last year Jennifer and I teamed up … with some other teachers here at the middle school and we started doing an ongoing thing throughout the year where we did three or four different visits, and did things across the curriculum,” Todd said.

After that meeting, the teachers created a peer mentoring database to work off of. The Paul Banks students get to learn their lessons from older students, and often times remember them and look forward to their next visit to the middle school, Todd said. Some students have told her when they see their “buddy” out in town, like at a basketball game.

The students participating in Tuesday’s mentorship lesson also taught and learned from each other last year as seventh graders and kindergartners, Booz said. For her middle schoolers, the program is a great way to get them engaged in the curriculum, she said,

“The older kids really learn how to teach skills,” Todd said.

Another aspect of the program is that it teaches the mentors to show compassion and understanding to the younger kids. Additionally, Booz said it emboldens them with a sense of responsibility for their young peers, a feeling they might not always get as young teenagers. Teaching in and of itself is also a great way to learn, she said.

For the younger students, the program provides an opportunity to interact with slightly older peers and to make connections with them, Todd said.

“The younger kids learn, I think, also what is ahead of them,” she said. “And it gets them excited about the whole community.”

Since the first graders making the rounds from station to station had already been through the mentoring process as kindergartners, Todd said they were excited to come back. She has also noticed some social growth since the last time.

“What I’m noticing is they’re way more comfortable this year than they were last year,” she said.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@homernews.com.

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