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Choosing to help younger students Magothy sixth-graders pitch in at Broadneck


The bulletin board map of the world in Becci Ropp's second-grade classroom at Broadneck Elementary School shows where her students' families emigrated from. The classroom assistant who helped the 25 youngsters make the map is a child herself.

Allison Haun, 11, is among about two dozen Magothy River Middle School students who, given the choice of doing nothing in the morning or spending more hours at school, chose school.

"I would be sitting in front of the TV, doing homework and watching TV. I'd be pigging out. I'd be bored," said Magen McKinney, 11, who spends a few mornings a week in the Broadneck gym.

"I'd probably be really, really bored at my baby sitter's house. I'd be bugging her," said Stephanie Nokes, 11, getting ready to cut letters that she and Magen laminated for a gym class relay race.

Magothy's sixth- and seventh-graders have mornings free this year because their school is operating on split shifts. Severn River Junior High School students attend classes at Magothy in the morning, and Magothy students attend in the afternoon, while Broadneck Senior High students occupy the junior high because their school is being renovated and enlarged.

Most mornings, a dozen middle-schoolers are at Broadneck Elementary. They read with youngsters, work on art projects, teach checkers strategy. They make photocopies, shelve library books, even grade papers. That they can supervise a group of children makes dividing a class easier for a teacher.

The sixth-graders' maturity, creativity and patience have wowed the teachers -- some of whom taught these youngsters only a year ago.

Alison, who this day is helping students trace their hands, getting more pink paper, offering a trash can for scraps, "takes it upon herself to see if the children need help with anything," said Ropp. "Children [in second grade] have real difficulty keeping with specific directions. She goes around, helping them stay on task."

The younger children enjoy the attention of the older children.

In Ropp's class, children call Allison to their desks to see their cut-and-paste project or to ask a question.

"She is nice. She helps us out on stuff," said John DeLeonibus.

The idea of using middle school students to help at the elementary school comes from Phyllis Mentzell, the principal at Broadneck Elementary. Last spring, as parental anxiety about this year's potentially empty mornings rose, she gauged students' interest, then arranged for them to ride the elementary bus to school and to be bused to middle school at 11: 30 a.m.

The interest surprised Magothy enrichment teacher Diane Bragdon, who put the volunteers through six hours of training and has seen their numbers about double during the fall.

"I thought we'd have some attrition. But they've stuck with it," she said.

They students get a note in their permanent records, but the hours do not count toward the state's service learning requirement for high school graduation.

The students say they have to make sure they have done their homework at night because their mornings are taken.

"They are learning to organize their time," gym teacher Collen Rowe said.

This also gives them a chance to be the big kids, the students added.

"Everyone looks up to you," Nokes said.

In a kindergarten class, the young children listen to the older ones.

"Put your name in there," Andrew Stinson tells a boy, and Ethan Stallings scrawls his name. Praise from Andrew puts a smile on his face.

Moments earlier, Katie Leipold looked to Andrew for reassurance that she was getting her numbers in the right order. Before that, Andrew was comforting a weeping Kathryn Patterson.

"It's fun to help the little kids. You can tell them stuff," Andrew said.

Pub Date: 12/24/96

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