Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Middle schoolers mix it up

Published in the Current

National Mix-it-up at Lunch Day was Nov. 21, and Cape middle schoolers were certainly mixed up. The idea, carried out at schools nationwide, was to break up cliques and groups of friends for at least one day at lunch, according to school social worker Bill Kueck.

It started with the seventh- and eighth-graders at 11 a.m. As they filed into the lunchroom, members of the Student Council gave each a number, writing it in marker on their hands. The students were supposed to sit at the table with that number on it and meet new people.

Students at that grade level had mixed reviews, but that was to be expected, Kueck said.

One student thought the seating arrangement was not that different. He sat with a few of his friends and a number of students he knew, but wouldn’t normally sit with. Everyone knew where their good friends were sitting.

Eighth-grader Tucker Emerson said it was a good idea and he thought it went well.

Eighth-grader Tyler Loring said he thought it might have been organized a bit differently. At his table, all but one of the students was an eighth-grader.

That seventh-grader, Fritz Maddrell, said he thought it was a good experience, but noted that some students didn’t like it. Others might not be comfortable, even if they liked the idea.

“Some people are shy,” he said.

Most students did go along with the idea, but a few rubbed off the ink from their hands and sat with their friends as usual.

Principal Nancy Hutton said it was the first time the school had such an event, and a few kinks may need working out before it happens again.

Halfway through the first session of lunch, she ended up with a bouquet of balloons taken from tables where they had been intended to display table numbers. Instead, they became toys for the students. Some balloons ended up floating to the ceiling of the cafetorium, so Hutton took hold of the rest.

The president of the Student Council was frustrated with how the seventh- and eighth-graders handled things by not going along with the plan.

The goal, she said, was “to have everyone meet new people.”

Many of them did. The sixth-graders who came in next sat down and did a few introductions. Some kids still sat more or less on their own, at the end of a table of kids they didn’t know, but even they thought it was a good idea.

The fifth-graders were even more amenable to the idea and had fun with the idea.

In all, Kueck said, the effort went off well. And while younger students go along more easily, “with seventh and eighth grade, you expect negative reaction to things that challenge their routine,” he said.