The scene in the MPA dining hall each day is a hive of activity, but there’s method to the madness that you might not notice. In particular, during the Lower School lunch period, students and teachers sit in an arrangement designed to foster community and youth leadership opportunities.

At Lower School lunch, students from first through fifth grade eat together at large, family-style tables with mixed groups from various grades — eight students per table. Younger students are paired with older buddies, sometimes the same students who also visit them as “reading buddies” in the classroom.

Over the years, we’ve found that this mix of students provides a great way for them to interact and get to know each other. Younger children learn a lot from the positive examples set by the older students.

The “big kids,” our fourth- and fifth-graders, are leaders and role models for the entire Lower School, and lunch period is no different. Here, they have the important jobs of being table heads and waiters, facilitating cleanup and modeling appropriate lunchtime behavior.

Several fifth-graders are chosen by teachers to serve as table heads. Their job is to help younger children open lunch items, help clean up a spill, etc. Each waiter brings a tray over to clear away trash at the end of the meal and washes down the table.

Teachers are interspersed throughout the dining hall at student tables; they oversee the table they are sitting at, along with the two on either side that have student heads. This means that adult supervision and assistance is always near if needed.

By Beth Ferguson

Mrs. Ferguson teaches first grade.