Damascus Middle School students embrace anti-bullying messages

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Mason Cote, Gabbi Nowodworski, Cailyn Crain, Emily Stout, Alex Wells and Gavin Oltean helped provide leadership for Damascus Middle Schools quilt project.

During Red Ribbon Week last fall, a team at Damascus Middle School sought to make lessons more interactive and personal.

Enter a lesson combining art and character education.

In their advisory classes, students glued fabric swaths to cardboard and wrote statements about bullying. They then added their names in the lower right-hand corner, signed like artwork.

Today students’ colorful anti-bullying quilt and written statements stand in the cafeteria as a daily reminder of positive behavior.

The quilt squares offer a variety of pledges:

“I will report bullying to an adult.”

“I will use kind words.”

“I will respect everyone at school.”

Collectively, the squares offer messages related to Red Ribbon Week and the school being a drug- and bully-free zone. It’s part of the school’s broader Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) efforts.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - For their quilt project, students glued fabric swaths to cardboard and wrote statements about bullying. After assembling the quilt last fall, students displayed it in their cafeteria as a daily reminder of their pledges.

“I like how instead of when people ask us about our anti-bullying efforts, we have something physical to show that every student has made a pledge,” said Emily Stout, an eighth-grader.

Leading the quilt project were art teacher Marlene Bergan, librarian Jody Bender and counselor Whitney Roush. Students also were aided by parents Sally Worthy, Martha Ramos and Janine Wilson.

“This is something fun and pretty, with so many different messages to encourage students to love one another,” Wilson said. “This is something we have to talk about. It’s important for kids to get as much confidence, kindness and acceptance now before high school — to feel comfortable at school.”

Moving forward, students will participate in a new anti-bullying training called Expect Respect after their spring break.

Groups of 10-12 students will meet with Damascus Middle School staff members to learn the material and practice role playing with statements realistic to those that would be used in bullying situations.

“Nowadays, it has really become an important topic,” Roush said of anti-bullying education. “It’s not just math, reading and writing, but also how to treat each other. We want to be proactive in covering these really important topics.”

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