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Teaching Tolerance recognizes 76 schools for Mix It Up at Lunch Day efforts

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project named 76 schools as Mix It Up Model Schools for their exemplary efforts to foster respect and understanding among their students and throughout campus during the 2016-17 school year.

The model schools, announced this week, participated in Teaching Tolerance’s signature event, Mix It Up at Lunch Day, which encourages students to sit with someone new in the cafeteria for just one day. The organizers followed up throughout the school year with additional events that encouraged students to cross social boundaries and be more inclusive and understanding. The model schools will be featured on the Teaching Tolerance website as examples to help other schools plan similar barrier-breaking activities.

“We are extremely proud to recognize these schools,” said Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance. “They wholeheartedly embraced the spirit of the day and the values we promote through Teaching Tolerance – empathy, kindness and respect for differences. They not only set a great example for other schools but for the world.”

A list of the schools can be found here.

Students at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, California, coordinated their school’s entire Mix It Up at Lunch Day. They distributed name tags with random group assignments to place students with classmates they don’t usually sit with at lunch. Conversation-starters and games encouraged discussion. The students were soon laughing and breaking social barriers.

“Our Mix It Up at Lunch Day event has had a significant and positive impact on our school environment,” one Amador student said. “I look forward to organizing more Mix It Up events and follow-up activities.”

As part of the schools’ Mix It Up efforts, each model school included individuals and groups from the school community in the planning and execution of the event, took a multimedia approach to publicity and reported that students enjoyed the day.

At the Akoyikoyi School in the Federated States of Micronesia – a three-time model school – accepting others and combating bullying was the theme of its most recent Mix It Up event, the fifth for the school.

Students from the nearby Xavier High School spoke about their home countries, which included the Philippines, the Republic of Palau and others. High school students representing the nation’s various states also spoke. Afterward, students discussed the event in class, reporting that it was a positive experience.

Teaching Tolerance’s Mix It Up at Lunch Day program began in 2002. Based on social psychology research, the initiative seeks to break down social barriers that can lead to conflicts, bullying and harassment. Many schools plan activities for the entire day, and some use the event to kick off yearlong explorations of social divisions.

The 2017 Mix It Up at Lunch Day will be held on Oct. 31. Teaching Tolerance offers an array of free online resources to help school groups and teachers explore the issue of social divisions and plan their event. Each school sets its own agenda and chooses its own theme.

“We encourage all schools to participate,” Costello said. “Mix It Up at Lunch Day can be an eye-opening experience for students.”

Teaching Tolerance is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children. The program reaches hundreds of thousands of educators and millions of students annually through its Teaching Tolerance magazine, multimedia teaching kits, online curricula, professional development resources and classroom-friendly social justice documentaries. These materials are provided to educators at no cost.