Nipping bullying in the budSecond-year curriculumn helps students identify bullying and stop it from happening
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
Students at Parkview Elementary are learning what it takes to get along.
With a curriculum called Steps to Respect, students are getting lessons on respecting themselves and others and doing what they can do to identify and eliminate bullying in the school hallways and beyond.
This is the second year for the Steps to Respect curriculum in District 196 Elementary Schools. The district added the program last year for third graders with the help of a grant. This year, the program has expanded to fourth grade.
Bullying has gotten a lot of attention nationally in recent months because of a number of cases in which bullied individuals committed suicide. The situation is nowhere near that bad in District 196, but Parkview social worker Renae Bethke, who worked with teachers to instruct students at her school, said it is important for students to understand the impact bullying can have.
“It’s a part of childhood,” Bethke said. “There’s many things we can do to help children learn to recognize it and be assertive and just be aware.
“I think there’s just more of a focus right now on providing those skills.”
The Steps to Respect curriculum gets students actively involved in learning about inappropriate behavior and the impact it can have. Students learn the definition of bullying and how it affects people who are being bullied.
“We talk about, how do you feel in this situation? Because your feelings can give you a lot of information about, Is this something I can handle?”
The lessons combine posters, worksheets and role playing.
Last week and this week, students designed and decorated handprints to affirm their commitment to stop bullying when they see it. Students talked about words and images they could include on their print to get their message across. Then, they put their vision onto paper.
In one fourth grade class, student Ryan Barsness was working on a picture of the earth on the palm of his paper hand with the words, “I am a respectful person,” written on the fingers.
“I respect the earth, and the earth is a great place to me,” he explained.
Classmate Kora Tokach decorated her hand with a collage of birds and the words, “I can make a difference.” She chose birds because she likes them, she said, and she wants to make the world a better place for them.
Other handprints had words about peace and kindness. A Japanese student included the Japanese characters for “friend.”
“We just thought it would be good symbolism,” Bethke said of the handprint project, which art teacher Melissa Mandel found online. Mandel and Bethke talked with students about the project, and she helped them create their work.
“They all came up with their own ideas,” Mandel said .”I think they’re getting an understanding.”
Bethke and Mandel hope to add Parkview’s handprints to the online gallery. They also plan to create a collage for the hallways at their school.
It’s a little early to know just how big an impact the district’s anti-bullying efforts are making, but the Steps to Respect curriculum could eventually expand to all elementary grades, if schools decide it is worthwhile. So far, at least, people seem to be happy. The program only takes half an hour in a week to teach, and Bethke believes it includes valuable lessons.
“It’s well worth it,” she said.