The grand finale of Derryfield’s annual eighth grade buddy program, with “buddies” from Manchester’s Beech Street and Webster elementary schools, happened on Friday May 8. It is hard to find new words to describe a program that’s been happening for almost ten years now. Every year is a winner, and words like “positive,” “happy,” “excited,” and “successful” always come up; nonetheless, it continues to be an irreplaceable experience for each school’s students, and one worth celebrating.
Each year, the program pairs students from the ESL programs at the Manchester schools with Derryfield eighth graders. Derryfield students spend time with their buddies at their school in March and April, and the students all come to Derryfield in May. The purpose for the ESL students is twofold; it allows them to practice their language skills outside the classroom, and to make some positive connections with “big kids.” In the words of some of their teachers, these kids don’t always get the opportunity for this type of positive social and conversational interaction in their lives, and this experience is invaluable. The Webster and Beech Street faculty have told us that this day is the highlight of the year for many of the students.
For the Derryfield students, it’s a chance to personalize their studies in English and World Justice. World Justice students are learning about immigrants and refugees, and hearing their buddy’s personal stories of coming to the United States adds depth of meaning to their studies. In English, it’s a chance for them to work on their creative writing, by creating a book for and about their buddy. There are no “rules” for the story they write – it could be fantasy, adventure, or biography – whatever speaks to the Derryfield student about their buddy’s personality or experience.
This year’s Buddy Day dawned clear and beautiful, kicking off yet another day of working, playing and sharing. Students were split up into five different groups, and spent time with each other in different blocks. They made slime and launched rockets, danced on Derryfield’s stage with Paul “Happy Feet” Whitmore, played games like Smaug’s Treasure on the practice fields and made hand puppets of each other in the art room. In a reading block, they read stories to each other, and the Derryfield students presented their buddies both with the story they had written, and another children’s book, to take home.
The finale was held in the McIninch Room, with a slide show of the day, more dancing and hugs all around, after which many happy, exhausted elementary school students boarded buses back to their own schools.