Every week for the past four years, 20-25 Redmond Proficiency Academy (RPA) middle school students have ventured to the Redmond Early Learning Center (RELC) to spend an hour after school playing with kindergarteners and teaching them valuable social skills.
RELC is Redmond School District’s in-town kindergarten facility, taking in kindergarteners from around the district.
The middle school students are trained in how to teach the kinders to problem solve, communicate effectively, manage their emotions and develop positive peer relationships, explained Shawn Diez, RPA counselor.
“It’s a valuable experience for both the older and younger students alike and an exciting partnership between the two schools,” Diez said.
Known as Beehive Buddies at RELC (a honeybee serves as RELC’s mascot), the middle school students are sometimes assigned to a kinder for a specific purpose. Some support students in music and P.E., while others support during classroom Choice Time.
Choice Time is an early childhood educational approach guided by the belief that children learn best when their activities are self-directed and play-based.
“It is a true win-win as the social, emotional and growth mindset focus is something the middle school students benefit from as well,” said Lisa Burgher, RELC student services coordinator. “Our kinders look forward to seeing their buddies twice a week.”
The middle school students are often found on the ground playing legos, teaching the young students new games, building with blocks, painting, and other activities. They are asked to leave their phones behind and have fun alongside the classrooms they are supporting and fully engage in the moment with the kindergarteners.
Burgher explained that kinders who often struggle with certain concepts or activities perform better as a result of the extra support and attention from their RPA Beehive Buddies.
“The mentoring provided by RPA middle school students has been a tremendous blessing in the work we do to teach kinders during the short, but crucial time period we have them on our campus,” Burgher said.