This is a guest post written by Karrah Lewis, Kindergarten Instructor and Co-Chair of the Lower School Diversity and Inclusion Committee

When you’re a child, the lunch room can be a space of great joy; lunch time often makes the list of favorite school day activities.  At the same time, the lunch room can also be a  place that creates some feelings of uncertainty and discomfort. Even as adults, we might be able to think back to a time during our own Lower School years where we wondered and worried: “Where do I sit? Who do I talk to? What do we talk about? What if I don’t fit in?”

These are just some of the thoughts children may have during this important part of their day.

An essential part of what we do as Ravenscroft teachers and educators is help young learners foster, cultivate, and navigate positive interactions and healthy social relationships during their Lower School years. One of the many ways we do this is through our regular “Mix It Up at Lunch Day” activities.

Mix It Up at Lunch Day is a time set aside for the entire Lower School community to build positive relationships with others by encouraging students to identify, question, and cross social boundaries.

Tolerance.org states, “Studies have shown that interactions across group lines can help reduce prejudice. When students interact with others who are different from themselves, biases and misperceptions can fall away.”  

On November 16, students in kindergarten through fifth grade participated in a Mix It Up at Lunch Day. On this special day, our students shifted from their daily lunchtime routines to connect with someone new over lunch.

The theme for our Mix It Up at Lunch Day was empathic joy, where students focused on experiencing joy for others. We discussed our Lead From Here competency of empathy, and how in our society we typically learn about empathic sorrow, or sympathy and sadness for others. However, empathy is a sharing of any feelings someone else may have, and those can just as well be feelings of joy, excitement, and success that’s called “empathic joy.” When we feel empathic joy for others, it brings us even closer together and we can grow in our understanding and appreciation of how alike we are — rather than how we are different.

To introduce our Mix It Up at Lunch to students and deepen our understanding of empathic joy, we started the day with a school-wide read aloud titled “After The Fall” by Dan Santat. The story inspired wonderful discussions about making connections to one another through challenges and sorrows, and also through our times of triumph and joy.

To “mix” things up a bit, students did not eat lunch in the dining hall on Mix It Up at Lunch Day! Instead, students gathered in small groups in classrooms and were encouraged to sit with peers they do not interact with as often. In addition, we had special guests from the Upper School join us. Upper School students joined the conversation and practiced their facilitation skills by leading fourth and fifth graders in discussion. Our fifth grade students also exercised their leadership skills by helping facilitate conversations with kindergarteners up through third graders.

The conversations were intentional and enriching. In small groups, the students actively listened and discovered similarities and connections between moments of joy they had experienced. Examples of discussion questions included:

  • Tell about something in your life that was really challenging/hard. How were you able to work through that challenge?
  • What do you think is the best part about being a kid? Why?
  • What is something you do well and could teach others?
  • What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you? Why did it mean so much to you?
  • Tell about your greatest wish.
  • What is the best dream you have ever had?
  • Tell us about a family tradition or activity you do together that brings you joy.
  • Share about the last time that you laughed so hard that you couldn’t catch your breath.
  • When was the last time that you told someone “thank you”? Why were you thankful?
  • Tell about something that you wish you could do more often. Why?

To encourage the experience of empathic joy and active listening during the discussion, students were asked to indicate when they made a personal connection to what they heard using a special hand signal. The signal meant “Just like me” or “Me, too.”

Following the lunch, students took time to reflect on what they learned about one another and consider some of the following reflection prompts:

  • How did you feel when we asked you to sit with someone new? Why?
  • How do you feel now that you have had time to talk with that person or people? Why?
  • Talk about what you noticed that you had something in common with the person or people you spoke with today.
  • So, what would it be like if you only sat with or spoke to the same people?
  • How has today changed any of your ideas or feelings about making friends at school?

Eating lunch “in the mix” has a wonderful impact on building a more inclusive and welcoming lunch experience for all. Students now apply this important learning beyond the lunch event, making positive connections with their community members all year long.

We look forward to building on these important discussions during our spring Mix it Up at Lunch Day and Identity Day.

Stay tuned for more information, and let us know if you would like to join us for the next Mix It Up at Lunch Day or learn more about this important work. 

karrah.lewis@ravenscroft.org

 

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