Memorial Middle School students break down social boundaries at annual Mix It Up Day
The start of middle school represents a time of great change for Point Pleasant Borough’s students; it’s a time when complex new schedules and increased responsibilities blend with new peers as students from both district elementary schools come together for the first time, creating a new and completely different school experience, to which it can be challenging to adjust. To complicate matters further, middle school is typically when social boundaries become more pronounced, a scenario that can make the pressure to fit in overwhelming for some students. As these pressures escalate, so too can students’ feelings of isolation.
It is for this reason that six years ago, Memorial Middle School’s Guidance Department launched Mix It Up Day, a day of activities and games designed to foster respect and tolerance among the school’s sixth grade students while encouraging them to identify, question and cross social boundaries.
“The goal of Mix It Up Day is to encourage our sixth grade students to work together while learning about their peers, ideally establishing new friendships in the process,” said Guidance Counselor Jennifer Kelly, who worked with fellow counselors Amy Miele and Megan MacDonald to develop and coordinate the activities for this year’s event.
Memorial Middle School’s Sixth Annual Sixth Grade Mix It Up Day was held at the school on Friday, Oct. 21, beginning at eighth period and lasting until the end of the school day.
“On Mix It Up Day, the sixth graders reported to their eighth period class, where they received a small piece of colored paper indicating to which group they would belong,” said Ms. Kelly, who explained that when planning the groups, the counselors attempted to pair together students with those that they may not have known or were not previously friends with. “Once the students had their assignment, they reported to the gym where the guidance counselors divided them further into smaller groups and assigned them to one of 12 activity stations.”
The groups of students spent seven minutes participating in each activity, including, Yoga; Relay; Hula Hoop; Hop Box; Interview; Chain of Kindness; If You Really Knew Me; Ball Game; Video Collage; Panther Paw; Gift Wrapping; and Scavenger Hunt.
After completing an activity, the groups of students would rotate together to a subsequent station.
“All students participated in all of the 12 activity stations, each of which had a specific purpose and goal,” Ms. Kelly said.
The first four stations all shared a physical exercise component designed to encourage team building. At Station 1, Yoga, students engaged in traditional yoga poses while also working with a partner to accomplish more complex poses. Station 2 – Relay – required students to work together as a team to accomplish a specific set of tasks. In addition to physical exercise and friendly competition, Station 3, Hula Hoop, also encouraged teamwork as students stood in a circle with their hands clasped and were required to pass the Hula Hoop around the circle without using their hands. And Station 4, the Hop Box, was a group jump rope exercise, requiring approximately eight students to jump a single rope simultaneously, with two additional students serving as turners.
The activities in Stations 5, 7, and 8 provided students the opportunity to learn more about one another. In Station 5, Interview, students worked in pairs, asking each other a series of questions about their partner’s favorite food, movies, television shows and other interests, the content from which was used to create Station 9’s Video Collages. Station 7’s “If You Really Knew Me” had students finishing prompts supplied by randomly distributed cards, among them were statements about favorite holidays and times of day, ideal vacation spots and dream gifts. At Station 8’s Ball Game, students sat in a circle to toss to their classmates a special ball that was pre-printed with prompts and statements that students completed according to the position of their thumb after catching the ball; whichever prompt their thumb touched was the prompt they completed, communicating things like their least favorite chores, the people they admire and the concert or play they most want to attend.
Stations 6 and 10, Chain of Kindness and Panther Paw respectively, were designed to reinforce Respect, Responsibility, Kindness and/or Character, which are the pillars of the school’s Positive Behavior Supports in Schools [PBSIS] initiative MMS Roars With Panther Pride. At Station 6 students wrote on a slip of paper an example of a good deed or kind act in which they were involved. The colorful papers were later linked together in a long chain to be hung in the school. At Station 10, students decorated panther paws with a specific pillar and accompanying message.
Station 11’s Gift Wrapping exercise saw a return to team-building as the students, seated in a circle, were required to wrap a cardboard box, without scissors and without ripping the giftwrap while each wrist was tied to their neighbor’s.
And because the school is still a new environment for the sixth graders, the purpose of the final station, the Scavenger Hunt, was to further familiarize students with the school’s layout.
“While each station did have its own specific purpose, the overarching goal of the event was to make the school more welcoming by breaking down social barriers and promoting tolerance and acceptance among our sixth grade students,” said Ms. Kelly.
Though it’s likely each student gained unique perspective and benefits from the event and activities, the best part of the day, by consensus, was making new friends.
“My favorite part of today has been meeting new people and making new friends,” said Theresa DeJacimo, 11.
Eleven-year-old Jackson Kuster also cited friendship as the day’s top benefit, he said, “It’s good to be friends with others. Today I got to meet and learn about people I didn’t really know and now I feel like I have new friends.”
“Sixth Grade Mix It Up Day is an excellent example of the school community coming together to support our newest students,” said Memorial Middle School Principal Gary Floyd. “Though the eighth grade students – as well as a number of our staff members, including myself - are away on the annual Eighth Grade Washington Trip when Mix It Up Day takes place, those that remain at the school - from the seventh grade students that act as activity station facilitators to members of the teaching staff who oversee each station - are all there to support the sixth graders.
“The event imparts to our students a powerful and lasting message of tolerance, acceptance and inclusion,” continued Principal Floyd. “Since its inception six years ago, Mix It Up Day has been helping to deconstruct social boundaries while fostering a sense of unity among our students.”