All the children were glued to the Mirror Image Arts cast. An atmosphere of respect was created, and a safe environment filled the room that welcomed each young person’s uniqueness. Ones that usually misbehave gave their undivided attention to drama that unfolded before them. Youth were taught compassion and kindness learning how to empathize with even the person doing the bullying, who is also worthy.
–Jason R. Takaki (Program Coordinator, Denver Parks and Recreation)
The US government estimates that over 70% of students and staff have seen bullying in their schools. Victims of bullying suffer higher rates of behavioral, psychological, and emotional problems that can lead to dangerous consequences such as self-harm and suicide. Those affected fare poorer in school, have lower GPAs and standardized test scores, and are at a higher risk of falling victim to Colorado’s 26% dropout rate. These national and state level statistics alerted us to the severity of the issue. We further defined our programming goals and objectives by this statistic: It has been proven that “when bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds, 57% of the time”.
While we understand that many educators feel it is their job to prevent and respond to instances of bullying, by design, bullying often occurs in settings where adults are not present. Additionally, a new arena of online abuse has emerged in recent years. Cyber-bullying can take place in spaces where adults simply cannot enter.
Our bullying prevention programs are designed to focus on positive behaviors and socio-emotional learning while strengthening leadership qualities in youth.
Focus: Bullying Prevention
Demographic: Youth aged 8-14
Curriculums: “Your Voice Matters” (single-day workshop) and “Finding Your Voice” (6-7 week after-school/summer program)
Skills: Both programs use theatre techniques to focus on empathy building, root cause analysis, problem solving, effective communication, and conflict resolution.
By establishing empathy for the person(s) involved in a bullying situation, youth can build skills and confidence in their ability to manage conflict enabling them to move from bystanders into the new role of upstander. We define upstander as someone who has the empathetic skills to recognize a bullying situation, the knowledge of how to be a first responder, and the ability to safely use conflict resolution.
WHAT A PROGRAM LOOKS LIKE
Every program uses a specific series of activities designed and tested to create a safe and inclusive environment that enables participants to open up and explore their thoughts and feelings with dignity, respect, and freedom. We introduce our dramatic characters through a play where several instances of bullying occur. We lead participants through empathy-building exercises where they investigate and learn about our dramatic characters: their backgrounds, their lives, and their relationships. They build skills that enable them to help the characters solve their interpersonal struggles and “rehearse for reality” by applying real-life solutions for each of the characters. Finally, through reflective dialogue, they practically apply their key learnings to their own life.
– Teach understanding of bullying dynamic.
– Create safe, inclusive environment that initiates dialogue.
– Develop empathetic skills to recognize bullying, the knowledge of how to be an upstander, and the leadership and communication skills necessary to safely use conflict resolution.