WOODLAND PARK, NJ - One day each month, the third and fourth graders take part in Mix It Up at Lunch day at Beatrice Gilmore School.

As students enter the cafeteria for lunch that day, they are given a colored card, which signifies which table they will sit at that day. On this day, they will be out of their comfort zone, sitting with students in different classes.

The aim is to foster connections, respect, and communication, according to guidance counselor Danielle Indri, encouraging students to identify, question and cross social boundaries.

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Conversations are facilitated and guided with the help of fun conversation starters on the tables and school personnel.

“The kids really seem to like it,” Indri said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program recently named Beatrice Gilmore as a Mix It Up Model School for its efforts to foster respect and understanding among its students. Beatrice Gilmore was among 76 schools in the country to receive the honor.

Mix It Up at Lunch day is a national campaign launched in 2002 to help students demonstrate the importance of respecting each other’s differences.

“We commend our Mix It Up Model Schools for finding innovative ways to create environments where respect and inclusiveness are core values,” said Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello. “(They) serve as great examples of how a school - any school - can cultivate these values among their students, faculty and staff.”