It’s not unusual for older students to buddy up with younger ones, but at Harbison West Elementary School, older students partner with developmentally delayed “little buddies”, teaming up with preschoolers.  The fifth graders are participating in Project Au-some, spending one recess a week getting the little buddies involved in physical activities and working on fine motor skills.

Students Partner with Developmentally Delayed "Little Buddies"The aim of the project is not only to assist the younger children, but to build understanding and empathy among the fifth graders for children with special needs.

“The project started with reading a story on autism … (and) it grew into more than we ever imagined,” said special needs teacher Beth Reilly. “When we presented the opportunity, all the students in the fifth grade class volunteered to spend their recess helping the preschoolers. It’s been amazing to see the leadership skills and empathy skills that grew out of this.”

According to fifth grade teacher Brenna Lamprey, the students researched disabilities and created lesson plans for each session with the preschoolers.  They also create lesson plans for each visit, and evaluate how the visit worked out.

“We already have another fifth-grade class that’s pairing up with another preschool class … We want it to spread throughout the school and really build that school community,” Lamprey said.

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