The program began with the introduction of the newspaper articles on the topic of bullying. On reading the articles, the discussion between students was organized; its subject was the bullying in other schools and the major problems it caused. More research was needed on their part, it helped them to realize that they themselves had been guilty of bullying and this created their motivation of finding out more information on the topic. We started by discussing the possible impact of bullying on the school and community. Several groups were formed within the class, each group had its specialization: one group worked on art, one group worked on technology, one group were writers, all students participated in the major subject areas (Math, Reading, SS., Science). In the course of the work, students learned the definition of a bully and familiarized themselves with the classification of bullies. They continued to cooperate with their group on research, activities and projects throughout our service-learning time. To help us achieve our goals and to answer our essential question, we had the privilege of having our community partners, who came and shared their knowledge and expertise with the students. In turn, the students responded by working diligently as they tried to find answers to their Essential Question: How can we prevent bullying in our school and in our community? At the end of our search the following answer was formulated by the major part of students: “In order to prevent bullying we need to keep teaching people about bullying and its effects, especially when we go to high school. In addition, we need to continue to help bullied victims find solutions to their problems through our website and our anti-bullying club.”
Students were involved in the project by signing up for the major curriculum area they felt they could work in and be productive.
In Math, students made up a survey for the middle grades and displayed their results in a pie chart. Their findings proved that eighth grade students had the largest percentage of bullies out of the three grades. They found out that there was a tendency of the eighth grade students’ picking on younger students. Of course, the eighth graders insisted that it was not bullying but playing, so we discussed and reflected on this issue and, finally, it became possible to establish the difference between bullying and play clearly.
In Reading, students composed poems and raps. They preformed skits using the book, “Scorpions”, by Walter Dean Myers and interacted with their audience by asking questions and the interaction was supported by a short student-made test to check student’s knowledge of the types of bullying mentioned in the skit. The participants also created a website for students needing help with bullies and they put together a PowerPoint to explain the meaning of bullying to younger students.
In History, students researched two high schools, Columbine and Jena 6. They reported their findings to the class, as the result, the rest of the class got food for reflection, especially when they saw some of the video footage of the disasters. Students also found out that bullying has been a continuous process for a long time already.
One of our assignments was to find the historic personality in 1700 and the 1800 America who was known as a bully in History and report their findings to the class. To make these reports students were provided with a rubric and detailed instruction concerning the assignment.
This service-learning project has proved to be very meaningful for the majority of the students participating. They really enjoyed working in groups, making decisions, offering suggestions and being creative. It did take a few weeks to get everyone on board, but once students felt comfortable, they were ready to take up their tasks in the curriculum areas. As they started to work within their group, everything seemed to come together. Ideas they came up with and the excitement they exhibited was amazing. They cooperated with each other and with our community partners diligently. Some of the ideas and projects are explained below.
Students checked their website daily to respond to any notes sent in by students needing help concerning bullies. In order to do this, students designed an anti-bullying box and placed it in the office. It created the opportunity for students to write their concerns about bullying. Before performing this activity, they informed the teachers by writing a letter to each classroom teacher explaining the purpose and asking permission to come into their classroom to display the box and answer any questions concerning the project that could arise.
Students also held a bake sale with proceeds going to victims of the fires that occurred in Coatesville. Another fundraiser the students enjoyed was designing t-shirts and coming up with their own antibullying slogan. Our community partner Shelley Hedland was instrumental in helping the students to get started on this project and on making brochures as well, which were successfully created with the help of computers.
The students sold twenty-five t-shirts with proceeds going to the school.
Students created posters and slogans to inform the school and community of the different types of bullying, as well as encourage them to stop bullying.
One group of students developed and performed an interactive play for the younger grades that addressed bullying issues in the classroom and playground.
Another group developed a newsletter with useful tips on their website that addressed bullying issues specific to Lingelbach.
Our community partners helped us along the way providing support and guidance, sharing and giving good advice.
For instance, Joe Davis, a former junkie and drug dealer, who is now a mental health therapist, works tirelessly to end senseless violence. Joe informed students how he had been a bully victim once and of that tragedy made him turn to drugs and eventually he became a bully himself. Fortunately, he came to his senses and changed his life.
Ms. Katrina Hamilton-Johnson, from WORA spoke to students about sexual harassment and the way it was connected with bullying. After giving students a few guidelines to follow in order to prevent harassment, she told them that they needed to step up and help each other, especially if they were clearly aware of the danger of the situation a person was in.
Ms. Shelley Hedland, from Multicultural Youth Exchange worked with students to create projects for our topic. She helped design t-shirts with slogans to prevent bullying and to inform people about the issues concerning bullying. She also helped students create brochures using computers.
Digital Service Fellows sent two great helpers to assist students in their learning. Drew and Tioni stopped by every Thursday and helped students create a PowerPoint presentation. They also taught students how to use special effects and import music into their slideshow, thus, improving the students’ computer literacy and making them more absorbed in the topic of the research.
The multiples used in our project to prompt deep thinking and analysis about oneself and one’s relationship to society are as follows:
Journals were used daily so that students could record what they learned, they took notes, wrote observations and reflections.
This summary strategy was used several times after reading a chapter in the book “Scorpions”.
Compare and Contrast is another strategy that we used to analyze the characters in the book “Scorpions”.
Creating a Game was the product of the students’ creativity, they selected theoretical information they learned about bullying and applied it in practice, created the game. The results have proved to be very fruitful: a very educational and amusing game appeared.
Teacher/Student Conference was the assessment tool I used to monitor students’ progress as they worked at the assignments and projects. This activity gave me a good indication of the areas where the students found their bearings successfully and identified the areas where additional assistance was needed.
Oral Presentations were frequently used during our service-learning; students had numerous opportunities to express themselves in putting on the play (drama), reading poetry (recitations), reporting material based on the research on the topic of bullying (speeches).
KWL was used when a new concept was being taught.
Response Group is an excellent way to have students organized and run the group. During our research, the students responded to the book “Scorpions” by Walter Dean Myers and were very successful asking questions and discussing answers.
Self-Evaluation was also applied and was proved to be a very productive activity. I asked the students to evaluate their own work themselves and keep it in their service-learning folders. This folder consisted of run-off papers, activities, puzzles, assignments given in class, and work done in groups. When I met with each student for our conference time, we discussed and analyzed their evaluation.
The reflection strategies above have enabled my students to use their critical thinking skills to solve problems and come to conclusions about the topic of bullying. Using the above mentioned strategies with the major subject areas was challenging but in the end, it proved to be very rewarding.
Progress was monitored in the following ways:
Students wrote in their journals and kept a folder with important papers (test and handouts). I conducted conferences with students to assess the progress of their research work and to review their journals and folder with them. This gave me important information about their progress. In their journals, they wrote poems, thoughts and ideas they had about the book “Scorpions”, summaries, thoughts concerning the newspaper articles they read, reflections on the stories presented by our community partners, essays, etc.
Rubrics were provided for all activities, this helped students understand the assignment, create the plan of work, and complete it successfully.
During our service-learning time, we had students who took responsibility and helped around school. For instance, in the schoolyard they helped the lunchroom aids break up fights. They took on the role of mediators to help the students resolve their conflicts.
They also developed listening skills by taking active participation in the presentations conducted by community leaders.