BY REBECCA ISENHART
REXFORD — On one of the last warm days of summer, Glencliff Elementary School students got a little extra recess.
Actually, they got a lot of extra recess. It was Glencliff’s annual Get Along Gathering, a kickoff to the beginning of the school year that helps bring kids of all ages together.
“It’s been a tradition since before I came, at least ten years,” said Glencliff Principal Shelley Baldwin-Nye. “It builds the community.”
Baldwin-Nye described the gathering as a structured time for unstructured play. Grown-ups led games all across the school’s grounds, but kids were welcome to opt out of any games they didn’t like. They could play basketball, draw with chalk, or jump rope if they preferred.
“It’s a day to let kids get to know each other and enjoy the grounds of the school,” Baldwin-Nye said.
It’s also a day for younger kids and older kids to get acquainted. Each year, Glencliff organizes various classes into learning partnerships. Kids from two different classrooms are organized into pairs. They continue to grow their friendships all year long, but the icebreakers take place during the Get Along Gathering.
“We just met each other this morning,” said second-grader Hailey Bishop as she and her learning partner, fifth-grader Hannah Kraig, tried to decide whether to shoot hoops or jump rope.
They’d actually crossed paths before, but never spent much time together.
“We ride the same bus,” Hannah said.
It’s nice enough that the yearly gathering acquaints fifth-graders and second-graders like Hannah and Hailey, who might otherwise never even have a conversation. But in addition to being an opportunity for friendship, it’s an opportunity for growth. Young children gain a new role model, while older children get to experience what it’s like to be a mentor.
Learning partners Dominic Carnavale, a second-grader, and Lucas Klowkiw, a fifth-grader, stood outside enjoying the sun and looking at plants on the border of Glencliff’s small pond. Dominic told Lucas all about nature and science at a million words a minute while his newfound older friend listened intently.
“I was like, ‘Whoa,’ ” Lucas said, impressed at his new, young friend’s knowledge.
“We like to run and play tag. We both like to chase after each other,” Lucas said. With some prompting, the boys admitted the both also really liked to read. “Do you like to draw?” Lucas asked Dominic. He nodded. “I do too!” he exclaimed.
Lucas, the older learning partner in the pair, is the youngest in his family. He knows what it’s like to look up to an older sibling, but he doesn’t often get to switch roles and be the model.
“It’s cool that he likes to play with me and looks up to me,” Lucas said.
The two went back to appreciating nature in the sun, looking for creatures in some wet leaves, when they spotted a water bottle tossed into the foliage.
“I hate litter!” Dominic exclaimed.
Lucas picked it up.
“Let’s go throw it out!” he said, proudly leading the way.