HAMPSTEAD – A project between Timberlane Regional High School 11th grade students and Hampstead Central School second graders began when the students’ teachers were involved in a Lesley University Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction: Integrated Teaching through the Arts program. Meaghan Guanci and Jim Kelly from Timberlane and Adam Hathaway from Central saw an educational opportunity for their respective students.
The teachers talked last year about how to make a program work and developed ways for their students to connect through an exchange of letters, followed by service learning
experiences. “For the whole year, the group of second and 11th graders formed a wonderful relationship, and it was clear to us all that not only was their knowledge of the content enhanced, but also their understanding of what it means to be a contributing citizen, role modeling and so forth,” Guanci said.
“It was clear to us that this was an experience that needed to continue.” Hathaway added, “We thought it would be great for our kids to interact with one another in a meaningful way because we knew that Meaghan’s kids had a lot to teach my kids. It all started with a storytelling unit that Meaghan was doing with her kids, and we thought it would be great for her kids to share with my young students what they had been working on, and we in turn would share a reader’s theater that we were working on in my class.”
The interaction enhanced fluency and reading with expression for the second graders and provided an opportunity for the different age students to learn from one another as well as display some of their talents and learning styles. The second graders after the first visit could talk of nothing else, Hathaway said, adding the 11th graders were viewed as role models and as “the coolest kids ever.”
“Watching them interact was a treat for the teachers as well,” Hathaway said. “I was able to watch my students grow and blossom in their reading, and they took it upon themselves to make their ‘Junior Buddies’ feel welcome and at home at Central School. It was also an opportunity for my students and the Timberlane students to learn how to write letters that were meaningful and thoughtful, a part of our curriculum.”
The interaction continued this year with new groups of 11th and second graders. According to Guanci, “This past year we have new groups of students and we have enjoyed seeing their relationships grow throughout the course of the year. They have exchanged several letters and in late October, the students met face to face when the second grade students came to Timberlane High School. The juniors created skits that were interactive, targeting the themes and lessons we had been studying in our classroom. Adam’s second graders had been doing a lot of work with poetry and visualization so they brought their poetry books to share with the juniors, and had the juniors create illustrations to go along with their little buddies’ poem.”
The Timberlane juniors visited Central School on Friday, May 10, with the second graders leading the combined student group in Hampstead history. “The juniors have focused all year on reading and integrating texts from class to making connections with their learning, and now they had the opportunity to spread further their love of reading and learning to their second grade buddies,” Guanci said.
Hathaway added, “My favorite part of all this is watching the social interaction between the different age groups. The juniors really look after the second graders in a nurturing way; in turn the second graders look up to them like big brothers and sisters.” Watching this interaction and the smiles it generated was “the proudest I have ever been as a teacher,” he said.
Guanci couldn’t agree more. She said, “This partnership that we have created between our classes has been by far one of the most important and special experiences I have been able to provide for my students throughout the course of my career. Watching the students interact with one another, how their faces light up is just beyond words.”
The second graders took the juniors to the Town Hall lawn and told them about some of the more important historical buildings in town.
Junior Faith Noel from Sandown said of her experience, “It’s really great to get to interact with these younger kids. It was fun to get to write to them and to get to really know them and then be able to apply what we learned from this experience in class. It has been a lot of fun, especially since these kids are so open to the learning experience. At Central School it was humbling – we need to be reminded what it’s like to be a kid.”
Second grader Jenna Gorton said, “The most fun was going to visit the high school and actually having someone who knows it be with us. We learned a lot and we wrote letters and I liked the letters my buddy wrote to me. I like to learn what is important to them. But the most fun was going to visit the high school.”