Would you be willing to eat lunch at a table with people you didn’t know?
That was the challenge for sixth graders at Evans Middle School. The students participated in a Mix It Up Day. Counselor Megan Wetrich had recently completed a lesson on acceptance. On Monday, students were assigned a lunch table and encouraged to meet new people. “It takes them outside their comfort zone for a day and that’s a good thing,” said Wetrich. The activity was based on a national campaign launched in 2002 that encourages students to meet someone new at lunch.
Wetrich recruited teachers to help facilitate conversations. An adult was assigned to sit at each of the 23 lunch tables. Tables had a mix of boys and girls from each dyad. Cell phone use was discouraged.
Alison Bruett knew five people at her table. Elexzia Passmore knew two. Most of the students admitted they would not normally sit at a table with students they didn’t know. All shared they sit at the same table every day, with the same groups of students.
The cafeteria “was awfully quiet,” observed Jade Heckethorn, compared to a normal lunch period.
Jessi Thrasher-Roberts was asked to select a question to use as a conversation starter. “If you could have dinner with anyone past or present, who would it be?” she read. Student responses included the Beatles, the Addams Family, Gwen Stafani, and Ariana Grande. Thrasher-Roberts selected author Edgar Allan Poe. “He is the inspiration for a lot of my stories,” she said.
Students had mixed feelings about the activity. “Some enjoy being out of their comfort zone, others struggle,” said Heather Platten, a sixth grade teacher who volunteered to be a facilitator. “Listening was the biggest part, not getting distracted.”