Uka Builds Bonds


Jenna Nakanishi

    Many of the elementary schools get into the holiday spirit by hosting festive activities for their students. Mililani Uka Elementary School held an annual gingerbread house making activity to encourage students to build relationships with others.  A big buddy from either third, fourth or fifth grade is paired with a little buddy, a kindergartener, to help them build their own gingerbread house.

    “They also look forward to all the goodies that they can eat later, but I think the number one is that they look forward to meeting their big buddies again. They really look forward to that time. They get super excited,” said Kindergarten Teacher Kathi Uyemura.

    Fourth grader Ava Hernandez, now a big buddy, had previously done the event as a kindergartener. She particularly remembered the time spent between the little buddies and big buddies. “(My favorite part was) doing it with my big buddies,” said Hernandez.

    While the gingerbread house making event did not originally use the buddy system, it has since evolved to include them as a way of giving the students more opportunities to meet people outside of their grade level. “It extends outside of the classroom, so the little ones feel connected to their big buddies,” said Kindergarten Teacher Shauna Ihu, “It kinda feels like a community is built.”

    The event allows for the different grade levels to interact with one another and create a positive atmosphere. “They motivate each other. ‘Cause if the little ones know that they’re going to be doing an activity with their big buddies, they’re on their best behavior. And vice versa too,” said Ihu.

    The gingerbread house making event allows the students to create shared memories between them. “It’s something to remember. Like they’re probably not gonna remember later on how they learned how to read or do math, but they’ll definitely remember making the gingerbread house,” said Ihu.

    While the gingerbread house building activity is primarily an event for the big buddies and their little buddies, there is still a curriculum involved. “We try to throw in a curriculum too, so like patterns,” said Uyemura. “But most of all, it’s more like a fun event for their big buddies and the little buddies to just do something together.”

    In general, the learning aspect of the activity is aimed more towards the big buddies, teaching them to give back. “Especially for the big buddies, to have them work with someone, like show them caring—you know like character pillars and even GLOs—all of those tend to coincide with our activities,” said Uyemura. “We stress to the big buddies that you’re doing this for them, for the little ones, your little buddy.”

    The gingerbread house making event will take place on Dec. 13 at Mililani Uka between the different grade levels.