By Celeste McNeil
Buffalo Ridge Elementary (BRE) fifth grade students are honing their writing skills by partnering with writing buddies from Rock Canyon High School (RCHS). The partnership, linking students from the college preparation American English class with 11-year-olds is new this year.
According to fifth grade teacher Michelle Parker, each BRE student has a writing buddy from RCHS. Utilizing technology, BRE students submit writing goals, writing samples and questions designed to get to know each other via an online template. The RCHS students then provide feedback and encouragement.
This matchup is a win-win for students and the community. The BRE students are learning authentic writing. “It’s writing for an audience, not a grade,” said Parker. The RCHS students share their knowledge and learn critical feedback skills. They also earn hours toward the community service requirement for graduation. Most importantly, a connection between the elementary and high school communities is formed. The BRE students have a built-in role model from the high school. The older students can help educate and excite younger students’ interest in writing and English classes.
Parker was excited to pair up with students from RCHS again this year. Last year, BRE welcomed Science National Honor Society students from RCHS to run an after-school science club at BRE. That club is continuing this year. Parker is passionate about linking feeder schools with the local high school to build a broad unified school community.
“I would love to see more interconnections, like writing buddies, between BRE and RCHS and even Rocky Heights Middle School. It would be amazing to extend partnerships like these to the other feeder elementary schools as well,” Parker said.
Recognition, comradery, role models and community service are just a few of the benefits that strengthen a community when older students are allowed and encouraged to get to know and support their younger peers.
BRE teachers are excited about the learning potential that comes from working directly with the high school mentors. “The RCHS students provide similar feedback that I would give to our fifth grade students. It seems to stick better coming from them instead of me,” Parker commented. She attributes this to the relationship between her students and their mentors.
The writing buddies program will continue through the entire school year and hopefully for many years to come.