"You don't understand friendship until a five-year-old explains it to you." –Kate ’25
During the Middle School Reorientation* last week, 7th graders visited the Pre-Kindergarten/Kindergarten students to learn about friendships. You read that right. While the Middle School students have considerably more experience in navigating friendships, they found they had much to learn from our youngest Hoppers. All the students kept their fingers busy and the conversation flowing by making friendship bracelets together as they talked; and as anyone who knows Middle Schoolers well will tell you, the 7th graders were just as engrossed in the beadwork as the five-year-olds.
The 7th graders interviewed the PK/K students to understand their perspective on what it means to be a good friend and how to take care of a friend’s feelings. They asked, “How can you be a good friend?” And, “Tell me about a time when it was hard to be a good friend.” The PK/K students explained what strategies they used when they became upset with a friend or needed some time to play alone or with others.
What became apparent to teachers and to the older students was some of the wisdom in the simplicity of the PK/K perspective. "Little kids are smarter than we give them credit for, and we should listen to them," said Caroline. Isabel added, "I learned that in PK/K, friends don't hold grudges. Everything blows over the next day, hurt feelings heal, and problems are temporary. I wish that in 7th grade that was the norm. I want to become more forgiving, and I hope my peers can do the same."
PK/K students, like their 7th grade buddies (and frankly most of us), are continuing to develop their ability to communicate with peers, especially when there is a misunderstanding or feelings are hurt. "Although they're not entirely the same, friendships in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten are very similar to friendships in 7th Grade,” Lindsay said. “Just like in 7th grade, they get into arguments with their friends. Also, sometimes the children in PK/K don't want to say that they hurt their friend's feelings, or sometimes, they don't even realize that they have hurt someone, just like we do in 7th grade!"
Of course, the students spent a good deal of time regaling each other with stories of their favorite memories with friends. The 7th graders benefited from being reminded about the best part of having friends. "Friendship is really important no matter how old you are." Laila said. Naomi added, "You don't really realize how important having friends is until it’s harder to make them and everything is a lot more complicated.”
The teachers observed a joyfulness in the collaboration that was evident from the tone of voices in the room and the enthusiasm in the bracelet making. “The 7th graders were so gracious and kind to our little ones,” PK/K teacher Bianca Santos said. “They really did a beautiful job engaging them in conversation. Our Kindergarteners have already asked when they'll be able to see their "7th grade buddies" again...hopefully soon!”
LMS Arts department chair and music teacher Keith Hudspeth was walking the hallways when he stumbled upon a group of Middle Schools boys who badly wanted to return to their younger buddies in Jody Welsh and Martha Farrand’s PK/K classroom. “It was especially sweet to hear how much they loved it!”
Looking to the future, several teachers expressed the hope that the regular collaboration, like this one between PK/K and 7th grade, continue in the new Lower/Middle School building. “I hope we create the expectation that getting together next year in the new space will be a normal, regular component of the GDS curriculum—equally meaningful to the 7th graders as it is to our PK/K students,” said Barbara Buonora. “Imagine the possibilities!” Keith added. Of course, Keith and many, many others have imagined and reimagined the possibilities over several years as we continue to work towards unification, now only months away.
But for now, students are building connections—and bracelets—in the spaces we currently share. As our 7th graders and PK/K students now know, sometimes meaningful friendships are really just built from a good combination of words and beads.
"When I look at my bracelet, I'll remember an interesting experience with the PK/K kids." Robert said.
*MS Reorientation is a day filled with activities and opportunities for students to strengthen their connections as a community, concentrate on wellness, and engage in service.
Staff writer Danny Stock tells the stories of teaching, learning, competing, creating, and performing at Georgetown Day School. He is a former GDS second grade teacher and current parent.
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