Wolfpacks Create Community At Westside

Wolfpacks Create Community At Westside



Research and educational practices are increasingly demonstrating numerous benefits from fostering environments where students of various ages can collaborate, learn from one another, and grow together. At Westside, we provide many opportunities for students across grade levels to interact, including reading buddies, collaboration on activities, school-wide assemblies, and, most notably, Wolfpacks. 
Each month, Wolfpacks gather to work on community-building projects, themed artwork, and character-developing activities. The older students can take on leadership roles, while the younger students develop strong bonds with older friends around the school. 
On Wolfpack day, older students pick up younger students in their classrooms, and they walk together to their Wolfpack location. Buddies stick together for five years until 8th graders help prepare 3rd graders to switch from younger students to mentor buddies in 4th grade. Each Wolfpack starts with a welcome circle and community connection, continues with an activity, and ends with reflections, shareouts, and farewells. Wolfpacks for the 2023-2024 school year will focus on activities around learning about each other and celebrating individual and collective identities, culminating in an end-of-year event, the World of Westside Spring Festival.
By encouraging students from various grade levels to interact and work together, we create a dynamic and inclusive learning environment that mirrors the diversity of the real world. This approach helps students develop essential social skills, such as empathy, communication, and cooperation, which are invaluable in their academic journeys, future careers, and personal lives.

Fostering Peer Learning

Multi-grade interaction allows students to engage with peers at different stages of their educational journey. Younger students can learn from their older counterparts, gaining exposure to more advanced concepts and problem-solving skills. Simultaneously, older students can develop leadership skills by guiding and mentoring their younger peers. This dynamic fosters a culture of peer learning, where students become both teachers and learners, promoting a collaborative and supportive learning environment.

Developing Empathy and Social Skills

Interacting with students from different grades helps build empathy and social skills. When children of various ages work together, they learn to adapt their communication styles, demonstrate patience, and understand the perspectives and needs of their peers. These interactions can be particularly valuable in developing emotional intelligence as students learn to relate to people of various backgrounds and experiences.

Encouraging Inclusivity and Belonging

Multi-grade interaction can contribute to a more inclusive school culture. When students of different ages regularly interact, they are more likely to form diverse friendships and social groups. This diversity can help students become more accepting and open to differences. A more inclusive school environment benefits all students and promotes a sense of belonging.
8th grader and a 2nd grader making paper snowflakes with each other.

Enhancing Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking

Collaboration among students of different grades can lead to more creative and robust problem-solving. Students may bring a variety of perspectives and approaches to the table, which can stimulate critical thinking and innovation. Exposure to diverse viewpoints challenges students to consider different angles when approaching complex issues, preparing them for the complexities of the real world.

Preparing Students for Life Beyond School

Life outside of school is not structured solely by age groups. In the workplace and in society, individuals often need to collaborate with people of varying ages and backgrounds. Multi-grade interaction in school can provide students with valuable experiences that mirror the real world, making them better equipped to navigate diverse social and professional environments in their adult lives.

Building Lifelong Relationships

One of the most beautiful aspects of multi-grade interaction is the potential for long-lasting friendships and mentorships. When students of different ages form close bonds, these connections can extend beyond school years. Older students can continue to offer guidance and support to their younger friends, creating a sense of continuity and a strong support system that extends into adulthood.
The importance of multi-grade interaction in education and the benefits of Westside’s Wolfpack program cannot be overstated. Wolfpacks not only enhance the learning experience but also shape students into well-rounded individuals who are better prepared for the challenges and opportunities that await them in the real world.