A letter from their Year 6 buddies made St Therese Catholic Primary Denistone’s Kindergarten students feel welcome at the school before they walked through the gates to learn.
Along with smoothing the transition to primary school, St Therese’s buddy program gives the new students a feel for the school’s values and a helping hand with technology and reading.
Principal Adam Nolan said the kindergarten students were matched with the best buddy for them after two-hour transition classes in the term before they begin school full-time.
“Our buddies wrote a letter to them and we sent it in the mail separately, so they felt special,” he said. “The parents said they loved the fact their child was treated individually and they were getting something for themselves rather than as a family for school.
We want our buddies to be the best people they can be.
“The Year 6’s have a curriculum need to meet so we decided that their buddy time was meant to be important to their learning. It wasn’t meant to be a babysitting process, or a cutting-up-pieces-of-paper process, it was meant to get the Kindergarten students to have an enjoyment of school and know that they were going to be looked after. Now it moves into how we can expose them to new things in learning.
“The first four weeks were about making connections, now it’s about what Year 6 students can do to assist their buddy’s learning. The Year 6 students come with their own 1:1 device so they come with a bit of expertise in terms of creatively using technology to improve learning.”
The students will work on reading activities including phonetics and sound recognition in coming weeks with their buddies. The school’s colour houses each have a value – justice, respect, compassion, excellence and one overarching vale of option for the poor.
“We’re really trying to get our leaders to be the face of the values of our school,” Mr Nolan said. “As a mercy school we’ve identified those five values that are important to us as a school and we want those to be lived.”
Year 6 student Olivia Hester, 11, has two buddies. “With my buddies we do a lot of interactive work – we build Lego and I get them to make what they want with play dough,” she said. “I think it just makes them feel comfortable in their environment.
“We get to know them and they get to have friends and know people around the school. We can be role models for them: show them what’s good, what’s not, and what to do so they have a guide to help the transition from preschool to primary school.”
Jack Baker, also in Year 6, said his letter included information about their new school.
“We told them they shouldn’t be scared of the transition between preschool and primary school and that you’d have someone who will welcome you every day,” he said.
“We talked about the teachers at school and how everyone is treated fairly and with respect. I also mentioned that we have great resources with technology and trampolines.
“My favourite value would be justice because it demonstrates fairness between everyone and equality. I want my buddy to know what justice really is.”
James Demarinis-Ulloa said he enjoyed speaking about the school’s values too with the younger students. “It’s fun playing with him in the playground, reading, teaching him how to do things and being a role model.”
Claire Stewart said excellence was another value relevant to the buddy program. “We want our buddies to be the best people they can be, so excellence matters. We also want them to be responsible and respectful,” she said. “We get to make a connection with the buddies and because we are looking after them, make sure they have a great time at school.”