The benefits of a preschool to Grade 8 education are many: an involved community; nurturing, caring adults; and a consistent educational experience. Perhaps one of the most endearing benefits at Graland is the Buddy Program, which started in the early 1980s.
When teachers pair younger and older students, each child participates in a mentor relationship that teaches them how to be an engaged member of a community, according to Head of Lower School Nan Remington.
“Older students are the key to modeling appropriate behavior and interpersonal skills,” Nan shares. “The meaningful activities they share with younger students create lasting friendships and a true sense of belonging. By the time children are in third grade, they’re saying, ‘I can’t wait until I’m the older buddy.’”
Grade 4 is the pivotal year when students transition from younger to older buddy. Without exception, students take this responsibility seriously and start the year teaching their kindergarten buddies to tie shoelaces. It’s an exercise in patience and empathy, to be sure.
Once students get to Middle School in Grade 5, they’re buddy program veterans who appreciate their roles as mentors, says Brenda Stockdale, dean of Grades 7/8.
“I love the fun factor,” she says. “When middle schoolers play with younger kids, there is so much laughter and movement. It brings out the best in them and lets them practice nurturing and showing compassion.”
Middle schoolers who want extra time with their little buddies sign up to work in the Early Childhood Learning Center during the elective block. It was a popular choice, according to Brenda, and speaks to the affinity our students have for younger children. This year, 12 boys and girls in Grades 7/8 help teachers by reading, singing and playing with 3- and 4-year-olds.
The Buddy Program was on full display at October’s Buddy Field Day, a Graland tradition that got a new twist this year. Students were paired with their buddies for fun and games like gunnysack relays and parachute activities. The whole day was designed to be more inclusive of our oldest and youngest students.
“Field Day is now also Buddy Day,” explains Bambi Mayo, PE teacher. “It’s all about cooperation and teamwork and helping buddies get to know each other. We made sure they had fun together so they could really start to form relationships.”
The Buddy Program unites students across the Lower School and Middle School, bringing a sense of community to Graland’s campus. It gives younger students a role model and older students a responsibility. All around, it’s a Graland tradition that benefits every student by cultivating compassion and inspiring leadership.
“You don’t think the younger buddies are looking up to you, yet when they see you they get so excited. It feels pretty good.”
-Paul Stone, Grade 8
“I had a big buddy in third grade who always said ‘hi’ to me outside of the classroom. He made an effort to reach out and showed me the kind of buddy I wanted to be.”
-Charlie Wallace, Grade 8
“When I see my little buddy from last year we give each other a hug. All of us look forward to being with our buddies and spending time with the younger kids.”
-Alyvia Gonzales, Grade 7
Preschool + Grade 8
Kindergarten + Grade 4
Grade 1 + Grade 5
Grade 2 + Grade 6
Grade 3 + Grade 7