Credit to Report For America Corps Member Grant Ritchey, the reporter who wrote this story. Grant can be reached here: [email protected]
Sarah Clutter puts on a neon vest and grabs a clipboard filled with papers.
It’s recess and her 20-minute shift is about to begin.
Clutter, a fourth grader, is among 21 fourth-grade students who are peer mediators. Their job? To help other classmates with problems and disagreements.
Wiggin Street Elementary rebooted the mediation program this year, after having a full-time social worker lead the project. Third graders were trained last May to give them a taste of the program and gauge if they wanted to participate the following year.
Clutter walked along with her fellow mediator Hadley Curry on a sunny Wednesday. There weren’t any problems to solve today, they said. Classmates were kicking soccer balls and enjoying the rays.
“I’ve learned that there’s a lot of problems, but lately there hasn’t been because kids have learned to solve problems on their own,” Clutter said.
“We walk around and make sure people are OK, because sometimes they won’t come to us — but most of the time they come to us.”
“The peer program is just a process to solve conflicts and there’s always going to be conflicts every day,” said Tamara Carlson, a Wiggin Street Elementary social worker who leads the program.
“These are skills that are going to help them throughout their whole lives, even beyond elementary school, and build that foundation for those skills to help them with their peers, or even in their home lives as they move to middle and high school.”
The goal, Carlson said, is to promote proactive, peaceful problem solving.
Wiggin Street implemented peer mediators before Carlson became the school’s social worker, she said.
“The principal and teachers discussed how beneficial the program had been to help solve problems at recess and to teach problem-solving and leadership skills to the students,” Carlson said. “As a result, when I began my role as the school social worker, it was my intention to bring back their peer mediation program.”
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