Seniors give 7th graders the gift of learning

Besides sharing the same school, morning prayer and lunch menu, what do grades 7 and 12 students have in common?

The world of books! But not just any books. Seniors in World Religions class created a series of them just for their younger counterparts.

“The assignment was to create a short story book that would tell a story of a famous religious leader, founder, or religious teaching of some kind,” said Robert Brearley, the seniors’ teacher. “Students were encouraged to be colorful, using pictures and words, and to be brief and to the point. This was an opportunity for them to teach a myth or story to an underclassman.”

For the seniors, the experience was a positive one with the school’s newest arrivals. “It was definitely a learning experience for both of us,” said Oronde Alfred. “It was a nice connection to make with the 7th graders because we became heroes to them by doing this for them.” 

Alfred gave his book about Siddhartha to Katie Santamaria. “She definitely had a smile on her face when she received it.” Oronde said.

Cuong Mai wrote a book for Sam Barry. “I think the project spreads the message that there are many religions in the world and that the 7th graders should know about them, to open their minds more,” Mai said. 

Barry appreciated the gift. “My book was about Buddhism and how it started and it has a lot of cool pictures,” Barry said. “You could see it definitely took them a lot of time to make them.” 

Alex Hayes gave Meg Baio a book he wrote about Mohammed. “I like the illustrations,” Baio said. “By getting the books from the seniors, I think it is a different learning experience that you don’t usually get. I also like they they met us in the cafeteria, it made me feel special.”

Emma Collins was given a book by Samantha Zanghi and Lilly Mahoney. “It was really cool,” Collins said. “The illustrations go really well with the words. I learned a lot about Jainism and I really liked that they gave them to us.”

For Nick Riley, who wrote a book about Daoism, a highlight of the experience was the interaction with the younger students.

“I think it was pretty cool that we went to the 7th graders and that they had a chance to talk to us a little bit,” Riley said.

Seventh grader Victoria Bellew agreed. "I enjoyed talking to the seniors. Even though we're younger, they still talked to me.” 

Zach McClay, who was given a book about Abraham by Lauren Wood, also appreciated the face-to-face contact with the seniors. “I like how they personally gave them to us,” McClay said. "I liked how they interacted with us and thought of us."

Classmate Christopher Fuller appreciated the knowledge he learned from the book which will help him in high school. “It teaches us about something before we learn it later,” Fuller said. 

While the seniors did most of the teaching, the experience was definitely a two-way street. “The books are good for teaching and learning,” said Julia Galvin who presented her book to Kaydence Tiffany. “We seniors were able to learn more while doing the project, then teach that to others, and then they get to learn from the book.”

This was the first time that grade 12 and 7 students shared this project.

“I think this could be the start of a new tradition,” said Kelly Donnelly, who teaches all grade 7 Theology classes. “It is so special to bring together the oldest and youngest students at AWHS in partnership and by gift giving. To top it off, the fact that this happened through the path of Theology class is important to our mission as a Catholic school and to building a faith-filled community.”

The project was kept a secret from the 7th graders until the seniors met them with their books in the McGrath Student Center cafeteria just days before the Christmas break.. 

“The Christmas spirit of giving was part of this assignment,” said Brearley. “We kept it a surprise!”

Senior Sarah McLoughney was pleased with the outcome of the project. “The 7th graders liked it,” she said. “And for us it was the gift of giving, an act of kindness.”