''Please pick a piece of paper and read it in your groups,'' said Michele Schnars, Persell Middle School's health teacher, to students in Project LINC's afterschool program. ''I want you to look at what your paper says - name-calling, teasing - and think about all the emotions that someone who is a bully, a bystander and a victim feels when there is a bullying situation. Place the piece of paper under your foot and keep it under your foot at all times while you move forward to the blue line."
Mrs. Schnars demonstrated, through the "Spiderman" game, how as bullying increases, the bully, the bystander and the victim all carry heavy emotions giving everyone unhealthy body images. Students began by walking normally with a confident stride. By the end of the game, the negative emotions caused the students to be on their hands and knees struggling to keep the pieces of paper under their feet and hands. It is a visual, hands-on demonstration that shows students that everyone who is participating in a bullying situation is negatively affected. Mrs. Schnars, who volunteered to help at the Project LINC program, went on to demonstrate tools for students to use to calm themselves down in a bullying situation.
The Project LINC activity is just one that came about through a partnership with Lincoln School nurse Carla Stringer whose daughter, Dr. Angela Backus a 1998 JHS graduate, is currently an assistant professor at Kent State University and has conducted extensive research on the relationships between bullying behaviors and perceived school connectedness among middle school students. Mrs. Stringer contacted Project LINC director Cheryl Stone and asked if she would be interested in collaborating on a bullying prevention program. Dr. Backus also offered to visit Lincoln School to talk to staff and parents about bullying prevention tactics.
Lincoln Elementary School Project LINC member Kyle Dean participates in the ‘‘Spiderman’’ activity, which demonstrated to students how negative emotions in a bullying situation can lead to negative emotions in the participants.
''We were thrilled to have this opportunity in the afterschool program,'' said Mrs. Stone. ''We already have a health, hygiene and character education unit as part of our program and we felt a bullying prevention component would benefit our students and our staff. We want our students to know that bullying a unacceptable and hope by making them aware at an early age, they will understand the different components of a bullying situation, including what a bystander is and how they can affect the situation, and just as importantly, strategies to handle the situation. The Project LINC students were like sponges, very engaged and eager to learn. I also received positive comments from parents who said their students shared what they had learned by having their family roleplay.''
In Dr. Backus' bullying seminar to Project LINC staff and parents, she provided a true/false quiz that asked, ''What Do You Know About Bullying?'' For example, ''Kids who bully are usually loners with few social skills.'' Dr. Backus said, based on research, that statement is generally false. Students who bully usually have friends and, more importantly, friends who support the bullying behavior.
''My goal today was to build awareness with adults on bullying. What it is, some common myths and what some of the research suggests about bullying,'' said Dr. Backus. ''I wanted them to understand some of the motivations of a bully so they can have strategies and ways to intervene, or to help prevent, a bullying situation.''
Bullying prevention is presented at all levels at Lincoln Elementary School.
''As part of a healthy lifestyle, we want to be sure our students are mentally healthy too and it is very important for our students to understand that we cannot accept any type of bullying behavior. Just as importantly, we want our students to understand what the bully, the bystander and the victim are all feeling and have ways to cope in a calm way with the situation and to tell an adult when they see a bullying event,'' said Mrs. Stringer.
The Jamestown Community Learning Council funds project LINC After School Program.