By Tracie Mitchell
Staff Writer 

Big Little program celebrates 10 years

TEN SLEEP – For 10 years now the Ten Sleep School has been pairing elementary students with middle school and high school students in a mentoring program called the Big Little program.


January 13, 2018

Tracie Mitchell

Ten Sleep School Big Elizabeth Bleicher helps her Little Siri Smith choose Christmas presents for her friends and family during the Little Shoppers event in December at the Ten Sleep Senior Center.

TEN SLEEP – For 10 years now the Ten Sleep School has been pairing elementary students with middle school and high school students in a mentoring program called the Big Little program. The program, much like the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, makes sure that every younger student has a positive role model to look up to and creates lasting relationships.

"When you see those special little relationships, to see those relationships grow is a really cool thing; to watch them get to know each other and develop that bond that most of them get," Ten Sleep School paraeducator Georgia Stocklin said.

"It definitely builds relationships, the Little Pioneers so look forward to seeing their Big Pioneer. Really it works two ways because it gives those Little Pioneers a mentor but it also gives the Big Pioneer some responsibility and an opportunity to serve," Ten Sleep School teacher Nikki Erickson added.

The program was first implemented during the 2007-2008 school year by then principal Tobin Noveshio after a similar program that Noveshio had been involved in in Montana, Erickson said. Ten Sleep School administrative assistant Neysha Lyman added that at the time Noveshio noticed a need for mentors for the younger students and that not enough Big Brothers and Big Sisters were available to fill the need.

The program benefits both the Bigs and the Littles in a variety of ways. Erickson and Stocklin stated that the program helps both younger and older students grow. Bigs learn how to communicate with younger students and how to build positive relationships. "The older students know that we expect them to be good role models and to be making good choices so that they can be teaching those little guys the same thing," Erickson said.

The younger students learn from their Big what is right and what is wrong in many different aspects of life and the proper ways to build positive relationships and not to treat their Big as a jungle gym, Erickson said. "Sometimes little kids are so exuberant and maybe they want to be a little bit wilder jumping on their Big. They have to learn a little self-control and how to be a good Little too, to have respectful relationships with older students and that respect has to be a two-way street in a good working relationship," Stocklin and Erickson said.

Ten Sleep School student Kinley Erickson, who was once a Little and is now a Big, stated that as a Little it was a lot of fun having an older student to look up to and do things with. As a Big she strives to be a good role model for her Little by being a good person, getting good grades, using good language, making good choices and participating in school events.

All Ten Sleep School elementary students have a Big but at times not all middle and high school students have a Little. "Everyone has the opportunity to be a Big. Most students choose to be a Big. Historically there has only been a handful that have not chosen to participate," Stocklin and Erickson said.

Some years there are so many Littles and not enough Bigs that some Bigs take on two Littles. "We try to match just a Big and a Little but sometimes the numbers just don't work out, so then a Big might end up having two Littles from two different classes. Because we have more elementary students than high school students this year, in the past occasionally, but more so this year, high school students have had more than one Little at a time," Stocklin and Erickson explained.

The program is run by five teams that encompass all of the Ten Sleep School staff from paraeducators all the way up to the superintendent. Each team plans a Big Little activity with team three planning the initial activity and assigning the Bigs to their Littles. Team three works hard to make matches that will work and be an advantage to both the Big and the Little. "Our team will get together and then we will go through the classes and try to look for a good match and we try to pair students who haven't been paired together previously. We actually put a lot of effort into that, we look at what common interests they could have or if one student is really shy and quiet we would pair them with maybe someone who is a little more outgoing. We really put a lot of thought into it to make good pairings that will bring out the best in each student," Erickson said.

There are about five large Big Little events throughout the school year. The Bigs and Little participate in the Little Shoppers event with the Bigs escorting their Littles down to the Ten Sleep Senior Center to purchase Christmas presents for their friends and family. The Bigs help their Littles make good choices and help them carry their wrapped gifts back to the school. The Bigs and Littles have done service projects together such as decorating cookies and distributing them and putting flowers and flags on the graves in the cemetery. When the Lungren's pumpkin patch and corn maze was running they would go together. This Christmas they participated in a scavenger hunt together. "The scavenger hunt thing was finding the room that they had to go to and then every room had a different activity like the penguin waddle, building Christmas trees out of speed stacking cups, minute to win it, shake the bell out of the tissue box and walking with a balloon between their legs; team type activities," Erickson said.

Bigs and Littles spend time together in activities other than the five planned activities such as sports events and recess. On Fridays the lunch periods for elementary, middle school and high school overlap, so it's not unusual to see Bigs and Littles dining together. "It is cool because some of them, say their Big is a basketball player, they will get their parents to bring them to the game where maybe they wouldn't otherwise. It means a lot to some of the kids and I think that goes both ways, it's not just the Little thinking so much about the Big but the Big also making a special effort to spend time with their Little because we do have high school students who will, especially on the Fridays where our lunches overlap, who will eat with their Little and then they will go outside for recess with them," Stocklin said.


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