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Seventh and kindergarten students become “buddies” in learning

posted Sep 26, 2018, 9:35 AM by Michael Richards
Nearing the end of school this past June, seventh grade and kindergarten students in the Wells-Ogunquit Community School District joined together on the playground of Wells Elementary School to meet, talk and play with wooden toy race cars made by the older students in their science class.  This annual meeting is the last stage of what teachers involved with this project refer to as “buddy learning”.  
 
About ten years ago, Wells Junior High School Science teacher, Saul Lindauer decided to try involving kindergarten students from WES with his 7th grade science classes’ year-end physics project.  He found inspiration to put this idea into practice not far from home.  
 
“Breakwater School, where my wife taught and my own children went to school has always had ‘learning buddies’, commented Lindauer.  “This multiage mentor/student activity is very powerful.” 
 
So, beginning with that first year,  Lindauer and Wells Elementary School kindergarten teacher Marcia Millian have worked together to coordinate a buddy learning program involving their differing age groups of students.  
 
“The 7th grade - kindergarten buddy project is one of the best things to happen all year,” commented Millian.   “It is amazing to watch new friendships form, the 7th graders coming back to WES and reliving their kindergarten year, and the current kindergartners hoping for a life-long friend!”   
 
In the spring, 7th graders, including the science students of Christine Durocher, are each matched up with a kindergarten student.  For the past five years, the project finds the older students constructing the cars to help them understand the physics principles of “force and motion”.  This year, 104 cars were assembled mostly with recyclable materials from Ruth’s Reusable Resources in Portland.  The car chassis are standardized and accessorizing is decided by each student.  
 
This year, the study of language arts was included as the older and younger “buddies” exchanged back-and-forth letters of introduction before meeting on the playground.  As a follow up, kindergarteners sent illustrated “thank you” cards to the older students after the visit.  According to Lindauer, “Grade 7 kids were thrilled” with the correspondence.   
 
Lindauer summed up his students' experience this way. “Grade 7 students step out of their preteen, self-absorbed worlds and genuinely engage with these young learners, instantly becoming important role models without having been told to do so."  He added that the two week car construction involves six classes and is broken down into the building and testing stages.  
 
Marcia Millian and WJHS teacher Mary Rand coordinated the inclusion of language arts in this year’s project.  The subject of reading will be added to the mix next year.

Buddies hanging out
Then seventh grade student Meagan Towne (left) with kindergarten student Daphane Gaines on the playground at WES studying a wooden car assembled by Towne to better visualize “force and motion” on June 7, 2018. 

7th grader and his buddy
Then kindergarten student Timothy Perry (at left) with seventh grade student Jonah Curley at WES on June 7, 2018 studying and playing with a wooden toy car assembled by Curley in physics class. 
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