Throughout middle school, groups emerge: grade levels, classes, advisories, friend groups- each providing an opportunity for students to find a “home” within our larger community. While these groups can offer a sense of comfort and a chance to develop relationships with both peers and adults, a profoundly important part of a student’s school experience, it is important to be regularly reminded that at our core, we are one community.

It is for this reason that for many years, Ravenscroft Middle School has participated in a campaign launched by Teaching Tolerance known as “Mix it Up” day. The campaign, in alignment with Teaching Tolerance’s mission to reduce prejudice and intergroup relations, encourages students to break out of their “comfort zones.” “Studies have shown that interactions across group lines can help reduce prejudice. When students interact with those who are different from them, biases and misperceptions can fall away” (www.teachingtolerance.com)

On November 13, we participated in a Mix It Up lunch. Groups of students differing in both grade and gender were assigned to different classrooms with the hope of connecting with other students with whom they might not naturally interact. Students began their time by eating lunch together and engaging in an “ice breaker” activity where they wrote down facts about themselves. Then as a group, students attempted to guess which facts each person shared. This activity served as an engaging way for students to get comfortable with each other, as well as an opportunity to reflect about first impressions or assumptions we make about others.

Additionally, students  participated in an exercise of gratitude. In groups of 3-4, with at least one member from each grade, students collectively brainstormed things they were thankful for in both their lives at home and at Ravenscroft. Each classroom then selected several of these to write on “leaves of gratitude” which have since been hanging on our gratitude tree in the Middle School entry. What a wonderful reminder of all we have to be grateful for and the incredible community we share!

Crucial to these experiences for our students, beyond solely participating, is the opportunity to reflect on them and consider their response. This can be summed up in three questions that align with the School’s Lead from Here framework: What? So What? And Now What? As we continue to “mix it up” this year, we will move from this initial “what” (crossing social barriers) to the “so what” and “now what”: challenging students to reflect on the value of these experiences, the growth opportunities they provide, and their potential responses as citizen leaders.

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