“What has someone done lately that made your day special?”
“What can you do to stand up to bullying in and outside of school?”
These are just of a few of the conversation starters that Kingston Middle School students used for “table talk” at their 2nd Annual Mix-it-Up at Lunch Day on October 27.
This week they became one of just 91 Mix-it-Up Model Schools in the nation, and one of two in Washington.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program has named Kingston Middle School as a Mix It Up Model School for its exemplary efforts to foster respect and understanding among its students and throughout its campus during the 2015-16 school year.
Shiobhan Fitzpatrick-Campana, a counselor at Kingston Middle School who lead the planning of the Mix-it-Up at Lunch event at the school, said “We hope it inspires youth to follow our lead and honor inclusiveness and respect for all students. Our school culture is welcoming and students know they can reach out to adults at our school for support.”
“We are delighted to recognize Kingston Middle School,” said Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello. “The Model Schools don’t just pay lip service to the values of respect and inclusion. They went above and beyond to provide students an opportunity to get to know their classmates and to maintain a sense of unity. Other schools hoping to have a similar impact can look to these Model Schools for guidance and inspiration.”
So what is “Mix-it-Up at Lunch”?
The Teaching Tolerance program has hosted Mix It Up at Lunch Day for the past 14 years to help students demonstrate the importance of respecting each other’s differences. Mix It Up at Lunch Day is a simple call to action. By asking students to move out of their comfort zones and connect with someone new over lunch, the event encourages students to identify, question and cross social boundaries.
At Kingston Middle School, students in the WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) mentorship program and LEO (Leadership Experience Opportunity) Club planned and hosted the school wide Mix-it-Up at Lunch day with support from school administrators, custodial department, food services and the staff.
As students entered the lunchroom, they were given a piece of paper and asked to find the table with the same color – this is how they mixed the students up. At the tables, students read a “table talk” script that provided conversation starters, such as “What have
you done this year to make someone’s day?”, and “What can you do to stand up to bullying in and outside of school?”. WEB leaders and LEOs walked around and encouraged participation, as well as handed out treats. Volunteers were invited to participate in group activities intended to building connectedness. Activities included name that song, hula hoop contests, and stack the cups.
Sustaining the message of acceptance and kindness
Follow up activities have continued throughout the year to help sustain the message of acceptance and kindness. In January during “No Name Calling Week”, LEO Club members invited students to be kind and make someone’s day. They conducted a silent activity where they “caught” other students being kind. They then delivered “Kindness Grams” to students that were caught doing random acts of kindness – holding the door for someone, giving a compliment, helping someone with homework.
How KMS became a model school
To become a model school, Kingston Middle School had to meet The Mix It Up Model Schools five criteria: They hosted a Mix it Up at Lunch Day during the 2015-16 school year; they included different members of the school’s community—cafeteria staff, aides, administrators, teachers and students—in organizing the event; they followed up with at least two additional Mix It Up-related programs or events on campus; they publicized Mix It Up at Lunch Day or celebrated inclusiveness with posters, announcements and other media; and their event was seen by students and school officials as a success.