A high school student and JumpStart student play on new equipment in the gym

Rachel Beck and Katie Boer didn’t work together before. But now, the connection between some of our youngest and oldest Spuds is creating magic in the classroom. Last fall, Beck took a leap and moved her Jumpstart classroom to a new location.

Located in the new Moorhead High School Career Academy, this collaborative space is a JumpStart classroom that works with high school students enrolled in the Working With Children class. JumpStart Teacher Beck says “The younger students like to have that big sibling program, where they play and read with the older students. They really look up to the big kids.” 

This class, which is part observation and part hands-on learning, is a new opportunity for high school students. Boer says before this program existed they would just read about the topics, but now they have the chance to learn about a concept and see it first-hand. One recent assignment had high school students researching large motor skills. The class realized when JumpStart made the move over to the high school, they couldn’t take a lot of the gym toys and learning tools with them. Boer had each student research a toy and activity that would help develop large motor skills. Each student wrote up their ideas and reasoning behind the choice, and Boer used these submissions to apply for a grant, which they received. The grant allowed them to purchase the equipment the students had researched.

“When we got the new equipment, it was like Christmas time for our students,” Beck says. “The kids couldn’t believe it. To have all of these options has been amazing.” She added that if you asked the JumpStart students what their favorite time of the day is, they would say gym time. The high school students were able to see the project from start to finish. From researching and writing their ideas, to showing the young students how to use the equipment. It was exciting for all to witness.

Boer adds, “Throughout the semester, students gain confidence working with young children. This is a more formal setting, so students are working on professionalism when working with the younger students.” Beck has seen the growth as well. “It’s been great to see the high school students blossom throughout the semester,” she says. At the beginning of the year, high school students were a bit nervous. Now, both teachers see the high schoolers hugging the littles and knowing everyone by name. “Anytime you collaborate with groups of people from different cultures, ages, etc., it enriches the learning experience so much. I love being able to do that,” Beck says. 

The program is brand new but getting positive feedback from parents, teachers and students. Before winter break, parents were invited into the classroom to meet the high school students working with their children. They asked questions and got to know more about the class they are taking and what they are learning. In the end, it’s a win for all in this new space. “My students bring into that classroom extra one-on-one attention,” says Boer. “The students love reading and hanging out with the kids, and are always sad when it’s time to leave.