Mix It Up at Lunch Day is all about diversity. It celebrates the diversity of America’s classrooms. And it shows the diverse ways teachers can tackle cliquishness in schools.
Tuesday marked Mix It Up’s ninth big year, and, as always, we were inspired by some of the great stories the day has generated. We thought we’d share three of them with you here.
Superheroes and superpowers—that was the theme during Rahn Elementary’s Mix It Up Day.
“[The students] all designed their own little superhero,” says fourth-grade teacher Sarah Zeigler. “And they had to come up with what their superpower was going to be for how they would respect others.”
Mix It Up is just one among many programs that Rahn uses to promote acceptance and understanding among students.
The K-6 school also has a Character Counts program, and November’s theme is “Tolerance and Patience.” “That ties in very well with Mix It Up Day,” Zeigler says.
To get kids thinking about their tolerance-driven super power, sixth-grader Chris Abbey dressed up as a caped crusader. He went from table to table spreading the word.
“I was trying to help everyone become a H.E.R.O,” Chris said. “That stands for Help Everyone Respect Others. And I told them that it’s not so bad to sit next to someone new. They’re not going to hurt you or anything. And it’s pretty fun to get to know someone better.”
Did all this heroic work pay off?
“It seemed like they were really happy,” Chris said of his classmates. “People who didn’t even sit by each other were together laughing. Everyone kind of came together like one big happy family.”
“When you mix something up, it’s not the same, is it.”
That’s how teacher Barbara Yelder started the Mix It Up discussion with her eighth grade students.
“Let’s say we’re going to make soup,” she continued. “What kinds of things do we put in soup?”
“Carrots!” said one student.
“Tomatoes!” said another.
Okra, noodles, corn, water and other ingredients were shouted out.
“OK, this is what the point is,” she says. “It takes all of that to make soup work. Just like it takes all of us to make Brewbaker Junior High School, doesn’t it.”
This is Brewbaker’s first year using Mix It Up. Principal Undrea Johnson says one goals of the program is to help immigrant students feel more welcome. The school has a mostly African-American student body with a smattering of ELL students—most of them from Mexico.
Mix It Up is part of a campaign to help improve relations among all students. This includes a peace rally later this month as well as a talent show that will include anti-bullying skits. “The kids were very receptive,” Yelder said. “We had a lot of them dropping by wanting to know how they could help if we do it again.”
Camp Hill, Penn.
Mix It Up at Lunch Day here begins with a Lifesaver. Each student is given one piece of the colored candy. At lunch, they sit at the table for people with that same color. “All the kids were with someone that they didn’t normally sit with,” says teacher Karen Anthony.
She said students have seen posters in the hallways and heard announcements about Mix It Up for much of the last week. Many of the students were excited and nervous.
So teachers circulated to make sure that lunchtime conversations were going well. Also, a student council member was assigned to each table to help keep things lively.
Natalie, a fifth-grade student council member, said that she really didn’t have to get people talking. “We have a bunch of outgoing kids in our grade, so it was easy to find things to talk about,” she said.
She also said that Mix It Up was clearly a hit at Hoover Elemetary. “I think I saw a bunch of people playing at recess with people they normally don’t play with,” she said.
Price is managing editor at Teaching Tolerance.