When eighth-grader Claire Earnest created a book for her kindergarten buddy at Peterson Elementary School, she incorporated Kaitlynn Allison’s favorite things as well as hands-on activities that would help the soon-to-be first-grader – letters, numbers, shoe tying, and braiding.
Earnest and other members of Brixner Junior High School Student Council created books for students in Amber McDonald’s kindergarten class as part of a buddy book project that pairs each Student Council member with a younger student. Last week, they walked to the elementary school to meet their buddies and give them their books and spend the afternoon together.
Kaitlynn and Earnest practiced tying with a shoelace that was creatively woven into a page. Others colored or traced letters and numbers. The afternoon of sharing included recess, reading books, eating a snack, and making friendship bracelets.
Brixner Student Council advisor Kjaersti Roberts started the Brixner-Peterson book buddy project 13 years ago as a way for her students to connect to their larger school community. The students provide questions to McDonald, who interviews her students and relays the information back. The leadership students are assigned a “buddy” and then create a book especially for their buddy.
The books incorporate biographical information about the kindergartener, including details such as their pets, favorite super hero, and what they want to do when they grow up. They also have an educational component and include pages with letter and number tracing, drawing and coloring, and activities such as tying, braiding, buttons, and zippers.
“For my eighth-graders, it really draws out their creativity and allows them to be a part of a service-learning project,” Roberts said. “They are doing some educational things with the kindergartners as well as being role models. It’s just fun way to connect.
McDonald believes the program creates a strong connection between the students.
“Anything that makes a student feel special is worth the time and effort,” she said. “The Brixner kids are proud of their work and the kindergarten kids feel so special to have their one-of-a-kind activity book.”
Earnest was among five Brixner eighth-graders who received buddy books as kindergartners in McDonald’s class nine years ago.
“I still remember my book,” Earnest said. “My buddy, she made it with a princess and unicorn. It had poms poms on it, and it looked really, really good.”