Inza R. Wood sixth grade students participate in back-to-school bonding event

COURTESY PHOTO - Sixth graders dressed up Wood seventh and eighth graders during a fashion show at the Girls Night Out event. Inclusion and unity were the main themes during the all-girls event at Inza R. Wood Middle School Sept. 13.

Girls Night Out aims to help sixth graders ease into middle school by introducing the students to peers outside of their friend circle by taking groups of students through different activity stations.

"Middle school is tough for kids in general," said Heather Shimmon, Wood parent and chair of the event. "You're trying to get them to branch out and to make new friends and to accept others."

Wood Middle School has been holding the Girls Night Out event and the Boys Night Out — a similar event with different activities — for the past 14 years.

Eighth grader Lola Kleiner participated in the Girls Night Out event as a sixth grader and remembers how the event helped her.

"I was with a group where I didn't know everyone, and I got to know them better. We started talking more and hanging out more, and now they're my really close friends," she said.

This year there are just shy of 90 sixth grade girls enrolled at Wood and most attended the event. The girls were split into eight smaller groups and each group was led by seventh or eighth grade student leaders.

Kleiner has been a leader since seventh grade.

"All of the sixth graders had fun, and they felt more welcomed after it," Kleiner said. "I think it helps because some of the sixth graders, even now it's the first month of school and everyone knows each other by now, (but) some people are still a little shy with other girls so it's good for bringing them closer together and pushing them a little out of their comfort zone to make more friends."

COURTESY PHOTO - During the Girls Night Out event at Wood, there were several activity stations students participated in.Students enjoyed a spa-themed experience and visited different activity stations. At the craft station, students made face masks, lip gloss and face scrubs from scratch. Students participated in a team building exercise led by Diana Cutaia of Coaching Peace — a company that works with schools, nonprofits and other organizations that focus on creating a safe culture that empowers people to lead with empathy and understanding. Cutaia led an interactive workshop that showed girls how to connect and support one another.

Sixth grader Elynor Shimmon said during the team building activity, groups participated in a tennis ball game that allowed them to learn the names of people in their group. The girls would throw the tennis ball to someone, say their name and then throw it to the next person, creating a pattern the group had to memorize.

"All the balls were falling all over. It was fun," Elynor said. "It was more of just memorizing their names and getting to know them."

Other activity stations included a photo booth, a scavenger hunt to get acclimated to the school, and a runway challenge where the groups used different materials like magazines, toilet paper and newspapers to create a look for their group leader, who then strutted down the runway.

Participants were judged on various categories such as who followed the instructions of the challenge the best and who exhibited the best team work.

Sixth grader Eden Best's favorite activity was dressing up the Wood seventh and eighth grade leaders during the fashion show.

"We got to decorate them with different (items like) toilet paper, streamers, all different things and make them look funny," said Best, adding that her group placed fifth.

COURTESY PHOTO - One of the activity stations during Girls Night Out was a photobooth.The girls were treated to spa-themed finger foods, Jamba Juice smoothies, popcorn and Jr. Scoops ice cream. Each girl also walked away with a goodie bag that included face masks, small toiletries and a free game of bowling donated by Wilsonville Lanes, among other items.

Elynor said she made friends with students who she realized were in some of her classes and said she would return as a leader next year.

"I think it made me feel more comfortable being there," Elynor said. "They were funny, and they weren't treating us like we were 4, they treated us like we were their age."

Best agreed and said she also would like to become a leader next year.

"It would be fun to help the other girls — when I'm older — to bond with more girls," Best said.

The Boys Night Out event will be the evening of Sept. 27.

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