Mix-It-Up Lunch Spreads Friendship at Harvest Ridge

Posted on 11/22/2019
Harvest Ridge students show off their red stickers at lunch

The Harvest Ridge Elementary community is extremely diverse. Families speak 27 different languages and come from 38 different countries. With so many backgrounds, Harvest Ridge decided to help bolster their feeling of community and encourage togetherness by hosting a Mix-It-Up Lunch in coordination with International Tolerance Day.

“November 16 is the set day for International Day for Tolerance,” said Sherry Reagan, school counselor, and coordinator of the event. “The idea behind this day is to strengthen tolerance by fostering mutual understanding among cultures and people. At the elementary level, we wanted to celebrate the day by having students step out of their comfort zone and meet someone new during their lunch time.”

To help encourage students to break out of the comfort of daily routines and interact with someone new, each child had a colored sticker that determined where they would sit that day at lunch. Only two or three students from each class were at each table. Most students started the lunch with hesitant looks on their faces, but the cafeteria was full of chatter and laughter by the end of the meal.

“Me and Macee have already been friends, but now I’ve made a new friend,” said Lauren. “Why didn’t we do this last year?” Lauren, Macee, and their new friend Anagha all sat at the same table and were excited to get out on the playground together after lunch.

Each table had a copy of conversation starters that students could use if they were feeling a little shy. Questions included ‘What do you do during recess?’ and ‘If you won $100, what would you do with it?’ Once the conversations got started, students felt more at ease and were able to talk to one another as friends.

“One teacher shared that before lunch, the students were feeling nervous and a little unsure of what to expect,” said Reagan. “After lunch, the teacher did another circle, and almost all of the students had changed their thinking about mixing it up and shared about the new friends they met.”

Plans are already in motion for a bigger event next year. Lessons will reach further as teachers will pair Mix-It-Up Lunch with learning experiences about tolerance and acceptance in the classroom. With such a diverse group of students, it’s important to foster mutual understanding among students, families, and cultures.

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