At Rocky Mountain Middle School, a special bond is forming between students of all abilities, thanks to a new activity called “Fun with Friends.”
Fun with Friends happens during “Stretch Time” — a half-hour period carved out of every day that allows students additional time for learning, while also providing a variety of enrichment opportunities for students who grasp concepts quickly. Fun with Friends is one such enrichment program that pairs Peer Tutors with students with significant disabilities in the “Learning Lab” fostering interaction and understanding during Stretch Time as they play traditional games together.
According to Principal Brian Thorne, one of the most positive impacts of the program has been students actively seeking to participate, along with the increased integration of students with disabilities throughout the day.
“Our (general education) kids have been reaching out, wanting to participate in Fun with Friends,” Principal Thorne said. “And then at lunch, I started noticing our students with disabilities who used to all sit together at the same table starting to sit at other tables with their new friends. Then, some of our kids started playing games at lunch, and, I’m like, ‘this is amazing’.”
RMMS 8th Grader Kate B. says Fun with Friends could be a great opportunity for all students. “I think it’s a really cool experience and I think that would be really fun for a lot of people,” she said.
Glenda Gray, a 20-year veteran Special Education teacher at RMMS says the program has had a significant impact on the students in the Learning Lab, helping them make friends, learn respect, and develop skills necessary for independence.
“They have friends who greet them in the hall, and have somebody to sit with in the lunchroom,” Mrs. Gray said. “They get to practice the skills we’ve been teaching them about personal space and showing respect, along with other things they need to know to be independent in life.”
According to RMMS Special Education teacher Abbi Wright, the impact of participating in Fun with Friends is profound for the Peer Tutors.
“I think it makes them better people,” Mrs. Wright said. “It makes them more understanding of people that are different than them. I think it helps them grow a love for people that are different and helps them understand there are things they can learn from them, even though they’re different.”
She also said she encourages students to consider Peer Tutoring, which she participated in as a student at Wasatch High School before graduating in 2018, noting that it “changed my life.”
For RMMS 6th Grader Ellie H., participating in Fun with Friends allows her to connect with other kids of all abilities, and reminds us, “Just because people are different, it doesn’t mean that they should be treated any different than us.”