WARREN, NJ - The Buddy to Buddy program at Mt. Horeb School began in 2011. It was developed by Guidance Counselor Dr. Kelly Stankiewicz, along with Mr. William Kimmick, then principal at Mt. Horeb and currently a Curriculum Coordinator for the district.
The program provides opportunities for upper elementary school students to be role models for younger students. Buddies partner together with peers to help younger children improve social skills and enhance interactive play.
To start the process, fifth grade buddies meet with Dr. Stankiewicz for a series of lessons where they discuss learning differences, special needs, and ways to help. She promotes sensitivity and compassion during the lessons, and demonstrates how the buddies can be good friends to others.
Students are then invited to participate in opportunities where they act as role models for the youngsters who range in age from PreK to 3rd grade. These opportunities may take place in the lunch room, at recess, or in the classroom setting. Students are always supervised by teachers and staff members. The teachers give them guidance in selecting activities, as well as support throughout.
The benefits to the development of social skills, as well as communication and conversation, are substantial. What may seem like a fun board game, at second glance is so much more. The fifth graders help the younger children follow the rules of the game, adhere to taking turns, play fair, and be gracious no matter who wins. Additionally, they may complete puzzles, build Lego constructions, read together, or play math games. The playground is another great chance for the buddies to engage in catch, kickball, soccer or jump rope.
The Buddy to Buddy program runs from January through June, and the 5th grade girls and boys rotate turns. Dr. Stankiewicz has watched this program develop over the years; while it is an optional volunteer experience, she reports that the students are so eager to be involved. “It is a wonderful program that not only benefits students with learning differences, but has a lasting impact on our 5th graders as well,” said Stankiewicz.
The goals and objectives of the Buddy to Buddy program are clearly aligned with Warren Township Schools’ revised Character Education curriculum, which was adopted in August 2014. The district’s program combines aspects of the following two research-based models: Elias’ Social Decision Making/Social Problem Solving and Olweus’ Bullying Prevention Program. The core principals of these two programs encourage social and emotional learning, promote academic growth, and equip students with tools to navigate situations while making respectful and positive choices.
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