Lockhart Elementary School teacher Joanne Saunders has worked tirelessly to help the students in her school take action to both prevent violence and bullying and to create kindness. We learned about Joanne’s great work in St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, through Not In Our School’s Facebook page.
We thought it would be wonderful to create an interchange between Lockhart School and Duveneck school in Palo Alto, CA, where Not In Our School (NIOS) activities have also been expanding. We were thrilled to hear the partnership has begun and continues.
Read how one school proactively is addressing ways to reduce youth violence. Their Facebook page tells the wonderful story of their efforts.
—Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas, Not In Our School Director
By Joanne E. M. Saunders
With the use of role-playing, dancing to inspirational music, original chants, performing familiar children's stories, and several other activities involving citizenship skills such as Responsibility, Respect, Team Unity, Integrity, Tolerance and Kindness, my students and I have been making a difference little-by-little in addressing bullying and student conflicts.
Several clubs give primary grade students the opportunity to come unwind, relax and take part in calm and creative activities. Students attend as often as they wish and may choose to work alone, with a partner, or in teams of four. All club activities are non-graded and
designed to help students develop their own creativity, critical thinking, hand-eye coordination skills, increased vocabulary development as well as enhance their citizenship skills.
Many times students come to these activities due to their teacher’s recommendation after encountering bullying, or fighting with other classmates. At times, my club members bring in students that they've witnessed being involved in some sort of negative activity on the playground, in the corridor, lunchroom or wherever students tend to gather in the absence of other adults. When this happens, we have brief "peer counseling" meetings or hold "A Kids Court" session to talk things out. Then I choose either a game or activity where the opposing students must work together to achieve a successful completion of a project. This has proven to be extremely helpful!
Here’s a bit more about how we say No to Violence and Yes to Fun at Peace at Lockhart.
Performing Artists in Action
We have become authentic charter members of the National Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE), a group that co-sponsored National Violence Prevention Week along with the Center for Disease Control (CDC). We have established our own chapter and are registered stateside as Chapter 3004.
Through the national association, we have been able to participate in their campaigns and activities stateside. Our affiliation with SAVE also earned us our own Facebook page, Performing Artists In Action Against Violence Everywhere, so that anyone can keep track of our initiatives for peace.
When we join Performing Artsts In Action, we take certain pledges. First, we pledge to be Buddies not Bullies to our schoolmates.Then we have to pledge to be Children of Character, exercising the Citizenship Virtues of Respect, Responsibility, Kindness, Tolerance, Understanding, Compassion and Empathy for everyone at school.
We also use Inspirational Lyrical, Ballet, and Musical Theater Dance routines to give members a chance to "shine" on stage and feel great about themselves, as well as demonstrate what can be accomplished when students engage in healthy alternatives to "Rough-Housing" and "Play Fighting."
Club members perform poetry, and chant re-arranged lyrics to songs which have become the major theme of all of our school Anti-Bullying and Violence Prevention Rallies; "We're Not Gonna Take It! We Don't Want No Bullying Anymore!"
Not In Our School
We also partner with the National Organization, Not In Our School. They connected us with Duveneck Elementary School in Palo Alto, CA, one of the schools they work with on bullying prevention. My club members correspond with students from Palo Alto using letters of introduction, Christmas cards, Valentines, and mot recently Flat Stanley Travelers. This latest venture has led us to a book club involving reading the series of Flat Stanley books. Students have been going to our school library, borrowing, reading, and conversing about Flat Stanley's adventures.
We are definitely planning to continue all of our efforts throughout next school year as well! Of course, saying no to violence and bullying and creating safety and kindness is a daily work in progress.
Joanne E.M. Saunders began a career as a Youth Advocate in Baltimore City, working for a youth program for girls and a Youth Activities Counselor at a boys' detention center from 1973-1975. Then she became a Caseworker Associate for Maryland's Department of Human Services from 1975 until her relocation to the U.S.Virgin Islands in 1984. Since then, she has worked with various youth groups as a Youth Activities Coordinator and Volunteer Youth Arts Club Organizer. Over the past 30 years, She has had great success steering students into using their minds, hands and creativity to make peace and stop school violence.