Feb 13, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterRiverton Middle School students stepped out of their comfort zones at lunch Friday, when they were asked not to sit with their usual friends during the midday meal.
The exercise was planned as part of Mix It Up Day, sponsored by the RMS Friends of Rachel Club. The group was formed this year to improve cultural awareness, understanding and tolerance at the school.
"It's a good way for people to socialize and get to know each other better," seventh-grade FOR Club member Kendra Cleveland said of the lunchtime challenge. "(Usually) everyone sits with their friends."
As they entered the lunchroom, students were handed numbered cards that indicated where they should sit. A teacher or student involved in FOR Club manned each table to make sure everything went smoothly.
"It was really quiet at first," seventh-grade FOR Club member Sahara Nestell said. "We were walking around starting conversations."
Cleveland said the sixth-graders, who eat first, "took it pretty well," even celebrating with a conga line that took them outside for recess. In between lunch
periods, special education case manager Nicole Schoening wondered how the older students would cope.
"Sixth-graders are more open," she said. "Seventh-graders are more solid in their friendships. ... They're more oriented to where their peers are."
As she watched the seventh-grade class file in for lunch, however, Schoening said they were "being real good sports" about the activity. Seventh-graders Hailey Sinclair, Courtney Woodarczyk, Adam Weaver and Keira Peck were the first to gather at their table; they said they had never sat together before.
"It's definitely different," Weaver said.
"That's for sure," Woodarczyk chimed in as she took a bite of her meal.
Woodarczyk said it was a little scary when she first heard about Mix It Up Day, but she wasn't upset about the temporary lunchtime seating arrangement. Others in her group agreed with her assessment.
"I think it's pretty cool," Peck said. "This is the first time we've done something like this."
Riverton High School 10th-grader Tristan Wells was impressed that the FOR Club had implemented the Mix It Up exercise. He is part of Club Hope, a group that is planning a similar program at the high school, and he had volunteered to help at RMS on Friday.
"We're trying to make a difference in the growing up of kids, (so) I thought it was great they're starting in a grade where kids can have a hard time," he said. "We're promoting them to be inspired and kind."
FOR Club sponsor and RMS teacher Janet Nyberg said the group is named after Rachel Joy Scott, the first person to be killed during the 1999 school shooting at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colo. She said the club meets once a week in an effort to make the school more fun, tolerant and accepting.
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