Rigor, Responsibility and Respect - Personalized Learning by Design
“Welcome to Lunch Buddies!” Seventh-grade students received that warm welcome from Special Education teacher Stephanie Castillo as they walked into her classroom. The students have volunteered to be part of the Lunch Buddy program at Sleepy Hollow Middle School.
Every other day students from the general education population eat their lunch and then play games with special education students from Ms. Castillo’s and Kelly Whelan’s classes. The program is in its second year.
“I really like being here because the other children don’t have friends in other classes to hang out with, “said seventh-grader Evan Bowen. “It makes me feel happy and it puts a smile on their faces.” The Lunch Buddies build Lego’s together, work on puzzles and dance. These simple activities have a profound effect upon both groups of students. “This program creates an opportunity for socialization,” said Whelan. “My students learn and practice how to greet and introduce themselves to others.”
The volunteers also make connections. Whelan said a student-volunteer from last year gave a present to a former Lunch Buddy over the holidays. Outside the classroom, students who may not have known each other now recognize each other as friends creating an environment of inclusion and empathy. Seventh graders Leslie Burgos decided to volunteer one afternoon for the first time. “It sounded really great and at the end of the day I will know that it was a way to help someone else.