Four Leaf Clover Program
The fostering of cross age ‘buddy’ relationships, such as those developed in St Catherine’s Four Leaf Clover Program, are of great benefit to all involved. It helps create a safe, inclusive and connected culture within a school.
In 2016, the cross age friendship program that has existed for many years between the Year 4 students and the ELC Four Year Olds was renamed. The name Four Leaf Clover was chosen to reflect the connection between the Year 4 students and their ELC friends. It was a new name that the students could have ownership of and a visual symbol that can be easily identified by all the students.
The Program runs as an integral component of the St Catherine’s whole School Wellbeing Program. It was launched in March with a shared lunch and play between the Year levels. Lunch time was spent getting to know each other and asking lots of questions about one another. This was followed by a play in the ELC playground. The Clover friends then met twice a term to play games, share stories and take part in collaborative activities. We took turns to meet in the Junior School classrooms, the Library and in the ELC. One special session was spent drawing portraits of each other. Clover friends posed with great stillness as each took a turn to draw their friend. Another magical moment was the gifting of picture books published by the Year 4 students for their younger Clover friend. During these sessions beautiful connections have been made and strong friendships have been formed between the children.
St Catherine’s Wellbeing Program weThrive:Wellbeing@StCatherine’s is a whole School approach from the Early Learning Centre to Year 12, that provides a holistic approach to the personal, social, emotional and physical wellbeing of the students. This is achieved through a thematic, integrated and age appropriate wellbeing program. The ELC to Year 2 focus of weExplore – who we are, through learning, through play and Years 3 & 4 weGrow – as people, through relationships with others, through mindfulness and reflection.
The Four Leaf Clover Program is in line with the National Safe Schools Framework which encourages a supportive and connective school culture and a focus on student wellbeing and student ownership.
This program benefits both the big and little friends. The Student Wellbeing Hub cites ‘The positive relationships formed between experienced students and those new to the school community can promote the little buddies’ optimal adjustment to school. This has a positive effect on learning and is a marker of future school success. Big buddies can develop leadership skills and empathy, enhancing their self-awareness, self-confidence and self-esteem – characteristics that have a positive effect on learning.’
For the staff involved it provides time for the teachers to step back and observe their students. The Year 4 students take the leading role and the benefits for them include feeling needed and taking responsibility for planning, then implementing activities to engage the younger students. It gives each Year 4 student the opportunity to make a difference and to develop their social intelligence. The sessions encourage them to collaborate and to show tolerance, patience and organisational skills.
For the ELC children, it is important that they develop a sense of belonging to groups and communities and an understanding of the reciprocal rights and responsibilities necessary for active community participation. They look up to their Year 4 friend with respect. They feel safe and cared for. This is also a key component of the Early Years Learning Framework, which guides all Early Learning activities in Centres across Australia.
The Alannah and Madeleine Foundation’s Better Buddy Framework also cites that a Buddies Framework assists with student transition to Junior School. It contributes to a positive and caring school culture, it develops pro-social values and skills. It builds self-confidence. It promotes inclusion, develops empathy and discourages bullying. It gives children the opportunity to practise the important values of respect, care and valuing difference.
The Four Leaf Clover Program also has a strong link with the Aristotle Building Blocks Emotional Intelligence Development Program. The Year 4 students this year, have worked through the Swinburne University program in their Wellbeing classes. Emotional literacy is very relevant to the School context and its positive influence on personal development and academic achievement is well known. The program has helped each student’s perception, appraisal and expression of their own emotions and in recognising the emotions of others. It has helped the Year 4 students recognise and understand the emotions of their younger friends.
The Year 4 student’s enjoyment of the Program has been evident throughout the year. Each session is highly anticipated. The start of each gathering has seen the Clover friends search each other out and greet each other warmly, often with a big smile and hug. The older friends have reflected on the Program this year and comments include:
“I love the Four Leaf Clovers because we get to be role models just like the Year 6 girls. When we are with them we learn a lot from them and they learn something from us. I really look forward to seeing them when they are in Prep.” Sophie
“You can hang out with a four year old like a younger sister or brother. It is always fun.’”Hannah
“The younger Four Leaf Clover friends learn lots from us. They always listen carefully and ask questions. They learn about manners and friendship. They look up to you.” Karen
“When we come over to see them they get really excited and all come running over for a big hug.” Sophie
As a teacher I have been involved in establishing and fostering cross age buddy programs in many schools over the years. The fostering of cross age relationships, such as those developed in our Four Leaf Clover Program, are of great benefit to all involved. It helps create a safe, inclusive and connected culture within a school.
The Four Leaf Clover Program has been a highlight of the year for many of the participants, both young and old. There have been life long memories and friendships formed. This year the Four Leaf Clover friends have built a true sense of connecting and belonging to the St Catherine’s School community.