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RMS students take one big, silly swing at bullying

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news Rosemount, 55024
Rosemount Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

The halls at Rosemount Middle School were filled with screaming, singing students April 11. There were kids in costume and kids in kayaks that had been hoisted onto the shoulders of their classmates.

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In other words, everything was going according to plan.

The plan, in this case, was to make a video starring every one of the middle school's more than 1,200 students. Students took turns walking backwards through the halls, strumming a guitar and lip-syncing to the Phillip Phillips song Home, while their classmates lined the hallways and cheered, waved signs or held out bubbling beakers filled with water and dry ice.

RMS counselor Betsy Rose said the idea was to fight bullying at the school by bringing students together for one big, crazy event.

"When kids come together over a common goal, even if it's something silly ... they're going to have a shared experience that they might not otherwise have," Rose said. "Once they've had that experience together, it bonds them in a way that they might not disrespect another kid."

Rose first had the idea for the video back in September, when she introduced students to a new anti-bullying curriculum with a video produced by students at Cypress Ranch High School in Cypress, Texas. She just figured the project was too big to pull off at RMS.

That's where the students came in. A group of RMS students used their Irish Time -- a period for students to get academic help or work on other projects -- to plan the whole thing. They picked the song, mapped out the route and got the rest of the school excited about the project. Teacher Genesis Alexander, who led the Irish Time group that did the planning, said students chose the Phillip Phillips song because of its message about making people feel like they belong. It helped that the song was long enough to allow the camera to navigate the school.

The students got excited about making the video happen.

"We wanted to raise awareness that bullying is not OK and it hurts," said Dorothy White, one of the students in charge of planning the video.

Students in each of the school's advisory classes came up with their own thing to do as the camera passed. Some waved guitars or loaves of French bread. Others tossed cards and confetti into the air. One group of sixth graders jumped into the pool.

"We really tried to have it be student focused and student led," Rose said. "As a counselor, student leadership is huge because you know when they take the cause on ... they do it in a way that reaches their peers."

There were a lot of moving parts to keep track of, but aside from a few technical problems with a portable CD player everything came together nicely.

"At the end, I was just overwhelmed by the fact we were all together and everybody was so enthusiastic," Alexander said. "We came back in the room and we were like, 'Oh my gosh, that just happened.'"

Eastview High School student Chad Gerkin shot the video and will edit together the finished product. Exactly what will happen with it from there is not yet clear. The students will get a chance to watch it, and Rose plans to use it for fifth-grade orientation.

"We should be the next YouTube sensation," White said.

Even if they're not, the project will not have gone to waste. For current students, just making the video was the whole point. It's something they can remember, and something Rose hopes will bring them closer together.

That they did it at all is pretty impressive, said Erin Schuman, another of the students who handled the planning.

"We came together as a school to do one big thing and I think it's pretty amazing we pulled it off," she said.

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