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Mixed grade groups would bond best over work, not play.

By Chloe ’12

It starts at ASM, where a well-intentioned All-School Council member makes the announcement that, in a couple of weeks, we will split into groups of girls from all grades and compete in a series of activities to decrease schoolwork-induced anxiety. Oh, and that participation is mandatory.

The day arrives, and girls slowly find their groups. Perhaps girls who take the same bus exchange glances, but otherwise girls in the same grades form clumps within the groups, sticking together as if there were magnets woven into the polyester-blend fabric of their skirts. As a teacher half-heartedly attempts to rally the group, one girl turns to her friend and sighs, “There are so many better uses of my time.”

Indeed, in my five years here, I have experienced these so-called bonding activities almost every year. I can recall my entire group agreeing to disband within ten minutes of meeting when I was in 7th Grade; each meeting in the following years has followed more or less the same route.

These activities are ineffective because they are mandatory. As teenagers are wont to dislike being told what to do, the fact that we are required to participate immediately makes the activity, no matter how great it is, lose its luster—the fun is gone before it’s even entered the equation. Spending 45 minutes going through the motions of bonding with fellow Violets is only a constant reminder that the period could have been used as a free period, or a study hall, or even—dare I say it—class time.

And the proof is in the pudding: the number of girls who have bonded during their voluntary time at the Face-It retreats seems to greatly outnumber those who stay fast friends after bonding during one of the aforementioned activities. Not only that, but the fact that girls don’t get that (seemingly expendable) period to study means that a pile of stress lurks in the future.

However, I do think that there should be a bond between grades; I don’t take for granted the advice and insight that I’ve gained from talking to older girls. Thus, I propose a new type of bonding activity that would decrease the amount of stress in our lives (at least for a day) and allow mixed-grade groups girls to bond without the frustrations of the past. Instead of being made to go through pointless obstacle courses, these groups can use the time to study and work on homework… together. The collective experience of a group like that would benefit everyone. Girls could share everything from stories about Doc’s classes to advice about where to find that elusive interviewee for the country project; an AP Bio student could help a girl with ES1 homework. Yes, perhaps it’s lame that our bonding activities should be centered around schoolwork — but schoolwork is the Violet thread that binds our student population together.