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Art projects helps students learn about bullying

By Staff | Jan 23, 2013

Skyline Elementary School is going beyond just talking to students about bullying with hands-on art projects to leave a more lasting impression.

For the second year in a row, school counselor Nancy Afflerbach and art teacher Liz Beemer have worked in conjunction on the anti-bullying program. All students attend an art class that combines the subject and a project.

“The lesson that I teach is how to identify different types of bullying, what you can do if you witness or experience bullying and how your classmates can help prevent it,” Afflerbach said, adding that class discussions follow after.

“It’s a forum in which kids are more comfortable, plus we don’t have to interrupt the regular curriculum,” she said.

Afflerbach explained that she is mandated to cover the material with the estimated 850 students at the school – kindergarten to fifth grade. Before the current partnership, she had to schedule time to visit each classroom.

Afflerbach said that is about 50 classes, with 30 to 40 minutes in each.

“Since the time is already set aside for art class, it just works beautifully,” she said.

Last year’s project involved index cards and the material.

“This year, we thought we needed something a little more dynamic,” Afflerbach said.

The students each made a pledge not to bully others, to stand up against bullying and to promote kindness. Each were given a pre-cut hand to decorate and sign as a reminder of their pledge, which were used to create a mural.

“For every grade level, we did the hands,” she said.

“That was the idea of how we would take the program to a new level,” Afflerbach said. “Our idea was to reach every single student in the school.”

The mural of hands is currently hanging in the cafeteria.

“Having it in the cafeteria serves as a reminder that we will not tolerate bullying in the school,” she said.

According to Afflerbach, the hands-on projects enable the students to have a physical connection to the information that they are learning about.

“I think it has more impact,” she said. “I think it sinks in better. I think they feel more a part of the lesson.”

Both educators see the school’s anti-bullying program continuing.

“This is more than a one-time shot. We’re going to be continuing this,” Afflerbach said.

“We need to let kids know that bullying is continuous.”

She explained that a key component is teaching students the difference between tattling on someone – in essence, trying to get someone in trouble – as compared to reporting bullying, which comes from wanting to help.

When students are able to identify bullying and learn that it needs to be reported, they are more comfortable talking to an adult. Afflerbach said this helps to prevent bullying, opens discussion and permits conflict resolution.