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Buddy program helps students learn together

by Merrie Leininger

The school years are fraught with competition and one-ups-manship.

But at many Douglas County School District elementary schools, “buddy programs” have been implemented to foster friendship and learning.

At Jacks Valley Elementary School, Christine Jezek’s kindergartners partner with the 2nd grade class team-taught by Jennifer Pendleton and Susan Kendrick.

“It increases peer relationships. On the playground, they play together and they are real excited when they see their buddy,” Jezek said.

The kindergartners recently traveled down the hall to visit their 2nd grade friends for a combined lesson on insects.

The students shared their excitement over the 2nd graders’ newly acquired caterpillars, which they will foster into butterflies. The older students described the caterpillar’s environment and explained the technical words to the younger students. All the students got a chance to look at the nutrients fed to and the waste produced by the caterpillar under microscopes.

Older students then helped the kindergartners complete a poem about bugs by filling in the blanks with type of bug they wanted to draw and color together.

“I help him read the words and I help him draw the picture of insects,” said Braxton Seibert, 7, of his buddy, Jorda Kynett.

“I saw him on the bus,” Jorda exclaimed with a smile when asked if they play together outside of class.

Jessica Fitch, 8, obviously enjoyed being a mentor to Amber Martinez, 5.

“I like to help her,” Jessica said.

“Jessica is my favorite,” Amber said.

Pendleton said the buddy program is great for her 2nd graders, wether they are paired with kindergartners or 4th graders.

“It gives them a chance to be leaders and teachers with the kindergartners and with the 4th graders, it lets them get some tutoring. It’s helped with community hallways. They look for each other on the playground,” she said.

Kendricks said her students behave more maturely when they are with the kindergartners.

“We always tell them to set a good example, and they do act like adults when they are with the little kids,” she said.

Kellen Dimitri, 8, displayed evidence of a young leader when talking about his relationship with buddy Kaitlyn Jeffries, 6.

“She’s a nice girl and I just like being with someone who can look up to me, and I can teach her new things,” he said.

Susie White, 8, said she enjoys reading with Danielle Stembinski, 5.

“She can read well. We read little books she brings and now we are reading ‘Icky Insects,'” Susie said.

Some students said they were already friends before being partnered as buddies.

“He’s my friend,” said Nick Fickle, 6.

“He’s nice and he tickles me every time I go down the slide at the pool,” Ryan Campbell, 8, said of Nick.

Logan Shafer, 6, and Levi Grabow, 8, said they are now fast friends.

“I like him very much because he plays with me,” Logan said.

“We played together at recess today. We wrestled,” Levi said.

Jezek said the buddy program benefits the whole school.

“It helps build the school community in terms of building caring relationships with younger and older students,” she said.