Frank Porter Graham Elementary Students Enjoy Mix it Up Day
A favorite tradition among students at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School is Mix It Up Day, a lunch time celebration of inclusion and new friendships. On Wednesday, November 28, students across the grade levels “mixed it up” for the fifth year in a row, and the cafeteria was a lively and colorful showcase for making connections.
Barbie Garayua-Tudryn, the school counselor, introduced the event to the school, and she continues to serve as the organizer and supervisor. She said, “The point of Mix it Up is to get kids breaking out of their cliques and groups in order to get to know other friends.” In the morning, when children arrived in their classrooms, they received colored paper wristbands to wear until they arrived at the cafeteria for lunch. Under a canopy of bright streamers and balloons, each table was decorated with orange, blue, pink or other colored stars. Children matched their wristbands to the stars, and new seating arrangements took shape.
“It really works!” exclaimed one fourth grade student. “I made one of my best friends, back in kindergarten when we did this.” Other children at her table nodded in agreement. Another fourth grade student said that the suspense was one of her favorite parts of the day, because you’re wondering all morning, “who will be at my table?” Some students chose to mix up their clothing for the day, so there were plenty of mismatched socks and clashing outfits on display.
Once children had taken their seats, there were baskets of paper strips on each table. The strips revealed “conversation starters” written in English and Spanish, with age-appropriate questions. For kindergarten students, the hands-down favorite was “Would you eat ice cream or cake for breakfast?” but much discussion arose from “Would you rather have a dog or a cat?” For the fourth graders, questions provoked giggles and grimaces. “Would you rather be locked in a room with Darth Vader or the Joker?” and “Would you rather wrestle an alligator or a shark?” Teachers, teacher assistants and other staff were on hand to nudge conversations forward among the few reticent children, or to simply sit among the students and enjoy the laughter.
Garayua-Tudryn serves on the advisory board of Teaching Tolerance, an education project started in 1991 by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group designs and promotes educational materials with the goal of creating more civil and inclusive school communities. Mix it Up at Lunch Day is an event that is publicized and supported by Teaching Tolerance, with enough activity recommendations to span the grade levels, K-12.
Garayua-Tudryn reported that one of the highlights at this year’s lunch was when a Pre-K teacher invited her students to find their colors on the tables where the third grade students were eating. Each preschool child had received a wristband from Garayua-Tudryn to initiate them to the event, and so they wouldn’t feel left out. But their teacher took it a step further and encouraged the children to join in the connection-making. More than half of them took the plunge and made their way through the cafeteria to find their matching tables. The older students were delighted to be joined by the youngest in the community, and they took turns reading out questions and encouraging conversations around the tables. When the Pre-K students returned to their classroom, the teacher held a circle discussion of what they had learned from the experience.
Next year in kindergarten, those bold Pre-K students will be seasoned and ready to start the tradition of mixing it up!