Students participate in their last mentoring session of the year

All year long, students from Paul Banks Elementary School and Homer Middle School have been enjoying a growing relationship as the elder students mentored and taught the younger. The program that brings them together had its last session of the school year on Monday.

The brain child of Paul Banks’ Wendy Todd and Homer Middle’s Jennifer Booz, along with other teachers at the middle school, the mentor program gained formality only recently. Todd has been bringing her kindergarten and first grade students to learn from older ones for years.

On Monday at Homer Middle School, the youngsters teamed up with Bonnie Jason’s seventh graders to write poetry about the sea.

“This spring, the (seventh) graders at (the school) have been studying, memorizing and writing poems,” Jason wrote in an email. “They’ve been introduced to classic poems by famous American and English poets, as well as newer poems by local poet Wendy Erd.”

Over in science class, the seventh graders have spent weeks getting ready to participate in a global census project that involves collecting data on intertidal ecosystems, Jason wrote. The last mentor session combined these two areas of study for Todd’s first graders, who have themselves been studying poetry, rhyming and patterns this quarter, Todd wrote.

“I asked the kids to apply what they’ve learned about poetic techniques to their current studies of intertidal life in science,” Jason wrote. “I created discovery boxes that hid intertidal organisms and other low tide treasures.”

From there, the older students took notes while their young mentees dictated what they could feel inside the boxes with their hands. The pairs of students turned the notes the seventh graders took into fully fledged poems.

For Todd, the rewards of having her students interact with older counterparts are great. The first graders she has now participated in the same mentor program last year, and have therefore had two full years of learning and communicating with older students.

“The increase in communication skills and confidence were huge from the beginning of last year until this spring,” Todd wrote. “They walked into the middle school with such confidence yesterday and got right to work thinking, creating and exploring with their partners.”

Todd said the program will continue next year with a new group of Paul Banks students. She said she’s trying to encourage others to get involved in the program, too.

The idea does appear to be catching on, as Fireweed Academy hosted Homer High School students who were alumni of the charter school to mentor its current students last month.

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