When students at the Number Five School in Cedarhurst walked into lunch last Thursday, instead of sitting with their classmates, they were encouraged to sit with others who shared the same birthday month as part of the Mix It Up at Lunch Day.
More than 5,000 schools across the country participate in Mix It Up at Lunch Day twice annually. The event was started through the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program, which seeks to get students out of their comfort zones and encourage them to interact with others.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program also named the Number Five School a Mix It Up Model School for its efforts to foster respect and understanding among students for the fourth consecutive year.
“We are delighted to recognize the Number Five School,” said Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello in a statement. “Mix It Up Model Schools have found innovative ways to create a school environment where respect and inclusiveness are core values. They serve as examples for other schools hoping to instill these values in their students, faculty and staff.”
Robin Cutler, Number Five School social worker, said the school teaches skills to students at an early age so they become good citizens. “The program teaches them to be kind, friendly and open to others,” she said of Mix It Up Day. “It’s a fun memory that they’ll remember about elementary school.”
Kayla Melgar, a fourth-grader, really enjoyed getting to meet someone new at lunch. “It’s nice to meet new people,” she said. “I have more friends now.”
School psychologist Michael Amorgianos said Mix It Up Day is a wonderful event to celebrate in schools. “It’s an opportunity to foster positive relationships among students,” he said. “It’s also a great opportunity to teach social skills and tolerance. I hope they’re able to generalize the social interactions that they have on an individual basis to the entire building and to a larger population outside school.”
Fourth-grader Jaidyn Goldis enjoyed sitting at a different table with her peers. “If you feel left out, it’s a chance to make new friends,” she said. “It’s fun and you can switch tables to make it more exciting.”
Goldis’ twin brother, Jared, also liked meeting new people. “I met a new friend,” he said. “It’s a happy day.”