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(Orfordville, WI) Jennifer Tranmer, Beloit Daily News

There was an excited buzz in the Parkview Elementary School computer lab and it wasn’t from the humming computers.

It was coming from the pairs of energetic students in Vicki Neal’s and Molly Davisson’s classes, as fifth graders worked with first graders to help their younger counterparts put their animal projects into Google Docs.

“It’s pretty interesting because we get to teach them,” said Chloe Mielke, a fifth grader in Davisson’s class.

The mentoring collaboration is among a growing number of mentorships taking place at Parkview Elementary School after the consolidation of schools following a 2014 referendum.

Brooklyn Carratt, a fifth grader in Davisson’s class, said she likes working with first grader Loralei Arnold and has been learning more about Google Docs after a previous assignment when she was introduced to the technology.

“It’s good because they’re not just listening to someone way older, but someone closer to their age,” Carratt said. “It’s like review for us, but we’re teaching at the same time.”

In addition to Neal’s and Davisson’s classes, the other first and fifth grade teachers, sixth and second grade teachers, kindergarten and fourth grade teachers have also launched collaborative mentoring times — and some are already looking to expand the efforts.

“Our building had a limit and now we can expand those borders,” Davisson said. “It’s so successful I want to do it in other areas.”

Neal agreed that working with other teachers, a standard that comes from the state level, is far easier now. Before the consolidation, there wasn’t the larger range in age of students that would allow for mentoring.

“This is something that can only happen if you’re in the same building,” Neal said. “This is the first time we’ve ever really had the opportunity to work like this together.”

In addition to helping the students learn technology by teaching, it is also building life skills like patience and teamwork, Davisson said.

“It is hard for (the fifth graders) not to grab the mouse because they want to go faster, but they’re getting the idea that that’s how they learned,” Davisson said. “One of my favorite parts is the face to face time that the fifth and first graders get. They each have their own expectations of their standards, and they hold each other accountable. It’s really very symbiotic work.”

Back in the lab, the students are wrapping up their work for the day. They will likely meet again in a week or so as they prepare to do a dual presentation when the project is complete.

In addition to learning a variety of life skills through mentoring, Henry Krajeck said it’s nice that the students look up to them and get excited to see them when they meet.

“It makes us feel important,” Krajeck said.

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