High schoolers mentor elementary students about bullying

Staff Photo by Hannah LaClaire Mikayla Colburn helps students come up with ways they can stop bullying to add to a "Unity Tree" they had made.

Thursday morning was Lisa Yates’ favorite day of the year.

Yates, a human relations teacher at Nashua High School South, brought her two classes to Fairgrounds Elementary School for a service learning project, during which the high school students taught the younger kids about bullying.

“It’s my favorite day to teach them, because they get to see what I see every day,” she said.

In each of her classes, students were tasked with finding creative ways to teach lessons about bullying that both conveyed the legal definition of bullying and served as a community-building exercise.

This has been a recurring project for both schools over the years, with adjustments in the program here and there, said Michael Harrington, Fairgrounds principal.

Yates brings students twice per year, different groups each semester.

In the fall, the kids teach the anti-bullying messages to the third, fourth and fifth grades, and then in the spring, those older elementary school students will pair up with high schoolers to try to teach the younger grades a similar message.

“It gets everyone involved

and really makes a difference,” Harrington said.

This time, Yates brought her second- and third-block students, who designed T-shirts and created lesson plans. KM Ashik and Nathan Demers designed the third block shirts, which depict a lion and a heart within the Yin and Yang Symbol. They called their team the “Lionhearted,” because everyone in the class is courageous, Ashik said.

The second block designers, Makayla Siccone and Jacqueline Ebel, took a different approach, showing two arms entwined

with clasped hands to show “that everyone is united,” Siccone said.

The approximately 60 students split up into small groups, each going to different classrooms.

Each group stayed in a class for around an hour and a half, with a variety of games and lessons appropriate for the grade level.

One group had students crumple up a piece of paper, and then try to straighten it out.

“We were pretty mean to this piece of paper, so tell it you’re sorry.” The children apologized. “Did that do anything? Did anything change,” the group leader asked. The children said no.

“This is what bullying does to a person. It leaves all these marks … saying sorry doesn’t fix it.”

Another game, called “The Big Wind Blows” was comparable to a mix of never have I ever and musical chairs, where students have to swap seats for answering questions like “do you have brown eyes?” or “are you wearing shoe laces?” Then, more serious questions were worked in, such as “have you ever been bullied?” or “have you ever accidentally hurt someone?”

One recurring activity involved a tube of toothpaste. Either the high schoolers or the elementary schoolers, depending on the structure of the activity, were asked to squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube. They obliged.

Then, they were tasked with attempting to put all the toothpaste back into the tube. They could not. The lesson was that, like toothpaste, bullying can not be taken back, and once hurtful words come out, they stay out.

Other activities relied more on acts of kindness, such as a yarn tossing game where someone throwing a ball of yarn had to compliment the person they were throwing it to. Compliments ranged from “I like the way you dress” to “I like how you put your mind to go help other people.”

The ideas for many of these games came from Yates’ class.

“We do a lot of learning through play, but somewhere along the line, we stop doing that. Mrs. Yates has us doing a lot of hands-on learning,” Nicholas Wai, a senior said.

The elementary school

students learned a lot about bullying on Thursday, but the Nashua South students perhaps took away even bigger lessons about teaching the younger generation.

“It’s important for us to talk to the kids, because we’re the “cool older kids” and we can relate to them more, they’ll listen to us,” Wai said.

His classmates agreed.

Mikayla Colburn said she was surprised by how much conflict she saw between students in the class she instructed, but that she had a number of students come up and hug her after, which she said felt good.

Brittany Henderson said she could tell they had really made an impact, and that hearing the students’ stories “just sent chills up and down my spine.”

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com.