Students in Rockwood South Middle's
Academic Stretch program have been remotely tutoring a group of University City preschoolers for the past five weeks.
It started as a class project that spanned the first two or three weeks of the Rockwood Alternative Learning Plan. Since then, eighth-graders Ethan Abkemeier, Taylor Arnold, Madi Crossen, Reshmika Janga and Grace Talleur have been volunteering their time to continue connecting with their preschool buddies.
"They helped plan it, set the times, interact with the preschoolers and their parents," said Rockwood South Academic Stretch teacher Alexandra Forgerson. "It's a huge deal."
The bulk of the activities have been weekly one-on-one reading sessions with eight different preschoolers. At the beginning of the program, the preschoolers and their parents relayed their interests to the Rockwood South students, who have been selecting books to read aloud that fit those interests.
One of Crossen's buddies wrote a book for her and shared it with her. In a recent Zoom session, one of Talleur's buddies surprised her by reading some books to Talleur based on her interests.
This past week, Arnold led a science demonstration for a group of seven students in which she taught them about oobleck, a substance that exhibits properties of both solids and liquids.
"It's been amazing to see students develop relationships that are maybe out of their comfort zone," Forgerson said. "Unless they have a younger sibling, they don't always have these opportunities to interact. The relationships and compassion they're able to show these students at home and to keep them engaged, the kids are literally begging them not to leave."
Forgerson said some of her students plan to continue meeting with their buddies over the summer.
"They're creating something special and unique that the preschoolers and the students look forward to every week," Forgerson said.