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MMS sixth graders break down social boundaries at Mix It Up DayMix 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 a challenge to adjust. To further complicate matters, middle school is typically when social boundaries become more pronounced, a scenario that can make the pressure to fit in overwhelming for many students. As these pressures escalate, so too can students’ feelings of isolation.

It is for this reason that seven years ago, Memorial Middle School’s Guidance Department launched Mix It Up Day, a day of activities and games designed to promote 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.

Mix it Up dayMemorial Middle School’s Seventh Annual Sixth Grade Mix It Up Day was held at the school on Friday, Oct. 27, beginning at eighth period and lasting until the end of the school day.

“On Mix It Up Day, the sixth graders reported to the gym, where they received a small piece of colored paper indicating to which group they would belong,” said Ms. Kelly, who explained that the colored slips were distributed randomly. “Once the students had their group assignment, the guidance counselors assigned them to one of 11 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; and Gift Wrapping.
 
After completing an activity, the groups of students would rotate together to a subsequent station.

“All sixth-grade students participated in all of the 11 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 meditation and performed 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.Mix It Up Hop Box

The activities in Stations 5, 6, 8 and 10 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 name, hidden talents, favorite colors and teachers and other interests, the content from which was used to create Station 6’s Video Collages. 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 thoughts on how helping others helps oneself, tips on how to alleviate sadness and how a sense of humor can help overcome negative emotions.

Station 10’s “If You Really Knew Me” had students finishing prompts supplied by randomly distributed cards from board game Ungame, a non-competitive learning/communication game that fosters listening skills as well as self-expression. Students finished the card prompts, finishing statements like which fairy tale character they most identify with, their favorite sport, holiday, and year in school, their ideal vacation spots and dream gifts among others.

Stations 7 and 9, Chain of Kindness and Panther Paw respectively, were designed to reinforce Respect, Responsibility, Kindness and/or Character, which are Mix It Up Chain of Kindnessthe pillars of the school’s Positive Behavior Supports in Schools [PBSIS] initiative MMS Roars with Panther Pride. At Station 7 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 sixth grade wing of the school. At Station 9, students decorated panther paws with a specific pillar and accompanying message.

The final station - station 11’s Gift Wrapping exercise - saw a return to team-building as the students, while seated side-by-side, were required to wrap a cardboard box, without using scissors and without ripping the giftwrap, using only three pieces of tape while each wrist was tied to their neighbor’s.

“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.

“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. “From select members of the seventh and eighth grade classes who worked as activity station facilitators to members of the teaching staff who officially oversaw each station – everyone was there to provide support and encouragement to the sixth-grade students.

“The event imparts to our students a powerful and lasting message of tolerance, acceptance and inclusion,” continued Principal Floyd. “Since it was introduced seven years ago, Mix It Up Day has been helping to deconstruct social boundaries while promoting a sense of unity among our students.”

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