TRUCKEE - There was trepidation in the air last week when Alder Creek middle-schoolers were pushed outside their comfort zones.
The first Mix It Up lunchtime of the school year gave sixth- through eighth-graders the opportunity to meet new faces and make new friends. The event, which will now take place bi-weekly at Alder Creek, divides groups and gives seating assignments to all students.
"Middle school is really cliquey, and this gives them the opportunity to break away," said assistant principal Scott Gehrman. "You can tell in their body language that a lot of them are uncomfortable, but they will tell you later that it's a fun experience."
Complaints around the cafeteria centered on friends being separated, but for others, Mix It Up lunch was a way to make new acquaintances.
Martin Pearson and Dillon Lynch, both eighth-graders, said they knew one another in passing, but that the event brought them together as friends.
Hien Larson, an eighth-grade teacher, said the lunch program was a positive complement to her curriculum, which is focusing on American history and issues of tolerance.
"(My students) commented on the fact that you really get to know new people, and that it is a good way to get out of the routine that cliques create," Larson said.
Nationwide, Mix It Up lunch is an annual school event to promote tolerance that takes place this year on Nov. 15.
The staff at Alder Creek found the time to be so beneficial that they are now implementing it as continuous part of their curriculum, said student counselor Rachel Falk.
After lunch, students return to their homerooms to discuss their experiences and new relationships. As the year progresses, more structured events, including team building and break-time activities will be scheduled to expand the program.