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Two classes at Williamsburg Christian Academy are showing that, sometimes, educators are not the only ones teaching in the classroom.
Since the beginning of the school year, Leah Prezioso’s second grade class and Connie Jutras’ high school ecology class have joined together in a buddy program, partnering the older and younger students to learn about science topics.
Although the two teachers had been interested in having their classes interact with each other, the “science buddies” experiment began almost by accident.
Jutras’ ecology class adopted a rabbit to increase their understanding of animal biology. Word of the rabbit, christened “Charles,” spread quickly around WCA. Jutras saw an opportunity, and had her ecology students visit lower grade classrooms to explain rabbit biology.
After Charles’ visit to Prezioso’s class, the two teachers discovered a way to link their classrooms — their curricula was similar. While Prezioso’s second-graders were learning about the basics of biology and ecosystems, Jutras’ high-schoolers were learning about ecology and how human activity shapes the environment.
With that realization, “science buddies” was born.
Beginning in September, Jutras’ students regularly visited Prezioso’s, participating in lessons, experiments and a field trip to the Virginia Living Museum.
Prezioso said the high school students quickly warmed up to their elementary peers, shifting their language and making the complex scientific concepts understandable for second-grade ears.
“The older kids have really taken charge,” Prezioso said.
Jutras said students from both grade levels were benefiting through the program.
“It really helps the older kids find that they have the knowledge,” she said. “Sometimes, they don’t realize that they’re learning it, but when you ask them to explain a concept, they can do it.”
Prezioso agreed the science buddies system helped both older and younger students to grow.
“The younger kids look up to the older ones as role models, and it boosts the self-esteem of the older kids and boosts their confidence,” she said.
Science buddies is not the first high school-elementary pairing system at WCA — older and younger students are also paired up for prayer and other groups — but the two teachers said the level of interaction between their classes was unique.
“This was one of the first to really start to blend outside and inside activities,” Prezioso said.
The teachers said WCA parents and administrators had been pleased with the program so far, and similar systems could be implemented for other classes in the school. Prezioso said one of WCA’s AP government classes was partnering with an elementary class to learn about government and civics.
Jutras is also adding a second science class to her course load, and will likely have students from both classes buddy-up with elementary students.
Prezioso said expanding the buddy system to other classes would have benefits for those students, as well.
“It’s a great mentoring opportunity,” Prezioso said. “It’s a chance to be a big brother or big sister to those students who don’t have that.”
Odyssey of the Mind
A team of students from Williamsburg Christian Academy showed off their problem-solving skills at a scholastic tournament.
The WCA students claimed first place at the Virginia Odyssey of the Mind regional competition March 28. The victory was the second consecutive regional first-place finish for the WCA team.
With their victory, the WCA team advances to the state finals, which will be held Saturday in Lorton.
Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program requires students to use creativity to solve problems, ranging from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of classic literature. Teams from the U.S. and 25 countries square off in international competition.