Dempsey Middle School joined more than 2,700 schools throughout the country last week in an effort to increase tolerance among students.
Seventh- and eighth-graders took party in Mix it Up Lunch Day during their lunch hour Tuesday, Oct. 30.
Mix it Up Lunch Day is a national campaign that began with an organization called Teaching Tolerance, headquartered in Montgomery, Ala.
Students entered the lunchroom and were handed an index card with a table number written on it by a teacher or staff member.
Once the students reached their tables, they found Popsicle sticks with conversation starters written on them, such as, "What is your favorite food?" and "What would you do with $1 million?"
At the end of lunch, students were invited to join in the Cha Cha Slide together in the lunchroom.
Jane Ziegler, Dempsey seventh-grade guidance counselor, said the purpose of the activity is to promote tolerance among students and help them to step outside their comfort zones.
"Kids were talking to kids that they don't normally talk to and finding commonalities," she said. "They realized that they weren't so different from each other after all.
"Kids were learning that they have simple, basic things in common and were bonding over those things during lunch. For example, they find out that they both like tacos or both have the same favorite teacher," Ziegler said.
In finding out that they have more in common than not, students will be less likely to pick on and laugh at each other, she said.
Ziegler said the lunch went right along with the school's overarching theme of "Power of One" this year, which reinforces the behavior of students who demonstrate good citizenship.
She said tolerance is a trait the school hopes to positively enforce. For example, she said, one student helped a new student in study hall learn a computer program from one of the classes they shared.
"We rewarded the student because they made a new student feel welcome and included -- and by rewarding the positive behavior, they are more likely to do the same thing again," she said.
Ziegler said the school is planning another Mix it Up Lunch Day in the spring, since it was so successful and received well by the students.
One student even said he wanted to do it every week, she said.
"It was a great event that helped students drop social barriers and also feel a part of the school, which is also good as well," she said.