Buddy program student benefits

A young student and his buddy.

A student-initiated learning program is winning hearts and turning heads in Sydney's south.

The library at Engadine West Public School is abuzz with activity two days a week as young minds collaborate on learning.

Now in its second year, the buddy system program, Kids 4 Kids, pairs Year 6 students with Kindergarten and Year 1 children. The older students create their own lesson plans and teach the younger ones reading, writing and maths.

It's so productive to see what the groups of kids are doing; it's heartwarming; it's the core of teaching.

 - Supervising teacher Rebecca Barrow

"I just like helping little kids with whatever they need to do, I like being with little kids, seeing what they've learnt and what they can do," Year 6 student Skye Mortimer said.

Sage Kimber, now in high school, started the program last year after being selected to attend a student leadership in public schools program (SLIPS) run by Heathcote East Public School, at her local high school.

The program started with just a handful of student helpers but now has 60 volunteer students on board.

In its earlier days, Sage said the students involved were "really quiet".

"Heaps of kids weren't talking so we talked to them and learned things about each other. That's how we started," she said.

That silence is hard now to envisage with the young "teachers" enthusiastically guiding their "students" through various learning activities.

"It's so productive to see what the groups of kids are doing; it's heartwarming; it's the core of teaching," supervising teacher Rebecca Barrow said.

However Ms Barrow said she rarely needed to help out.

"I'm superfluous, I'm here if they need me but they don't," she said.

Ms Barrow said the program was successful because it benefited all involved.

The older students were developing strong leadership skills, improving their confidence and dreaming of teaching and working in people-orientated fields, she said.

For the younger students the program not only helped with their schoolwork, it improved their social skills and gave the students a support person to go to at other times, beyond the lunchtime sessions.

"If these little kids need some help, rather than always coming to the teacher, they know their big buddy is there," Ms Barrow said.

Photo by Rebecca Barrow

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