By Michelle Durham
HADDONFIELD, NJ (CBS) – In middle school, tweens often feel more comfortable in their immediate social circle, which experts say can lead to bullying and social isolation. So, officials at Haddonfield Middle School are conducting a social experiment of sorts, encouraging kids to broaden their horizons. For one day, they’ve assigned seats in the cafeteria, so students eat lunch with someone they don’t know as well.
As the students filed in, they were handed a number so they knew which table to sit at.
Assistant Principal Sandra Horowitz explains why it’s necessary. “It’s really designed to help students break through social barriers and work through the awkwardness of being with new people.”
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Does Ashton know who she’s sitting with? “Well, I know most of these people because they went to elementary school with me.”
Reporter: “What do you think about sitting with people you normally wouldn’t sit with?”
“It could be fun, maybe. It depends!”
Taylor explains what they’re doing during lunch, “brainteasers to get a special prize for our table.”
Reporter: “I know you don’t normally sit with these people at lunch. How do you feel?”
Taylor: “I’m fine. I know them. When we’re put together it’s a great way to make new friends.”
In the end, Amanda says, “I like it. It’s a great way to meet new people!”
School Prinicipal Dr. Gino Priolo says, “If at the end of all of this a student says hello to a student they don’t normally say hello to, then we’ve accomplished our goal.”
Priolo says all the anti-bullying programs in the world won’t work if you don’t establish communication skills and empathy among students.