By Lonnie Huhman
Dexter sixth-graders wants their fellow students, teachers and the whole community to know how they feel about bullying.
And they teamed up with SRSLY Dexter last month to do so.
“Ask the students at Creekside Intermediate School in Dexter about bullying, and they have a lot to say,” said the project press release, which was put together by St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Hospital, a supporter of SRSLY.
This is a new project for sixth-grade Summit Learning classrooms, which in part encourage the students to develop their own goals and create projects.
The student-led effort culminated with them creating 120 anti-bullying signs and placing them on the front lawn of their school. The sign project, funded by SRSLY Dexter, was on full display for three days along high-traffic Baker Road, in recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month.
“Each bold anti-bullying sign displayed a kid’s personal thoughts and feelings about why bullying needs to stop, in plain view of the hundreds of parents, students, teachers, and residents who pass by — or go into — the school each day,” the press release said.
Narda Black, sixth-grade English Language Arts and Social Studies teacher, “the idea for the signs came from the students themselves.”
“They wanted to do something for anti-bullying month, so they discussed putting up big paper signs inside the school hallways,” Black said. “But we thought, ‘wouldn’t it be much more powerful if we could put them outside, where every car that drives by our school can see it?’”
Black said the signs were created as a way to have the kids engage in authentic learning experience at the end of the project. The school, however, didn’t have the funds to purchase outdoor signs, so Black reached out to Alyssa Tumolo, Coalition Director for SRSLY Dexter, to see if the community coalition could help.
SRSLY Dexter was excited to help and agreed to provide all the funding for the sign materials.
“SRSLY is about helping youth make good choices, which includes avoiding peer pressure and staying safe,” Tumolo said. “Peer pressure is such a big part of bullying – either not standing up to bullying, or even being a part of it. It’s an issue our youth feel strongly about. So, it was a natural fit for us to support Creekside’s anti-bullying project.”
Jane Webby, also an English Language Arts teacher at Creekside, worked with Black to encourage and guide the students throughout the process.
“Our message here is that there is a way out. There is hope,” Webby said. “If we work together, we can make a difference. This sign project is proof of that.”
The words of some of the Creekside students involved with the sign project speak volumes about their passion for making their school an example of what it means to truly eliminate bullying:
“We want our school to be a place where kids are excited to come, not scared or unhappy,” sixth-grader Addison Robke said.
Her fellow student Jack Demerell said, “Standing up against bullying helps set a tone for your whole life. We can encourage others to stop bullying.”
“When you hurt someone’s feelings, they can carry it around for a long time,” Josie Alabre said.
“We want to help others know how to deal with bullying, so kids don’t have to worry about coming to school,” Madison Leach said.
“We don’t want kids to just stand and watch if they see bullying,” Annie Ralls said. “They can stand up and tell someone to stop bullying.”
“We can have a bully-free classroom and learning environment,” said Sean Mccormick. “This will allow all kids to be happy and feel safe at school.”
Webby added that the signs give the students an authentic audience because the whole community will see their posters — and with a little luck, the message may go even further.
“Some of the kids are writing to public figures, celebrities, and famous athletes to tell them about the project,” she said. “This gives the students a real sense of purpose.”
Black and Webby teach Language Arts in the platform known as Summit Learning. This project-based platform allows students to share ideas with one another and learn from their peers. They said they believe the project-based environment enabled the students to think creatively about anti-bullying efforts.
While much of the anti-bullying movement talks about adult intervention, Black emphasized that our youth have a critical role in the effort to stop bullying. “We encourage students who see bullying to take action. We work hard to educate kids on how they can step in. Bystanders have tremendous power to stop bullying. These signs are a way for the kids themselves to speak out — to say that they are against bullying. And that’s very powerful.”