Whether from classroom lessons, group discussions or personal experience, many students at C.V. Starr Intermediate School in Southeast are familiar with bullying.
But during a visit with members of the Putnam Northern Westchester Women's Resource Center, fifth-graders learned about one of the topic's somewhat overlooked components: the role of the bystander.
"The take-home message here is, if you see something, say something," Ashley Retta, community educator for PNWWRC, said. "If you know something's going on, that someone is being bullied, say something. There are a lot more of you guys than there are teachers, principals, bus drivers, lunch monitors."
Part of the visit involved youngsters discussing the bullying they witness in school, and the feelings that go with those experiences. The presenters talked about the consequences for victims—feeling depressed and sad, disliking school and more.
The roughly 45 students separated into smaller groups and performed skits for their classmates for the purpose of defining the roles of a bystander. The pretend bullying occurred on the school bus and during lunch, and, in most cases, involved a select student or two telling a peer he or she was not to sit with the group.
In some cases, youngsters watching the situation unfold called on a teacher for help; in others, they questioned the bully and engaged in a disagreement. The other scenario involved kids who remained silent and watched.
"We're trying to create good bystanders," said JoLynn Backes, community education coordinator.
That goal is not far from other lessons the youngsters have already learned about in school this fall. The project served as an introductory to the New York State Dignity for All Students Act (DASA). It aims to prevent bullying, discrimination, intimidation and taunting in school.
Recently, physical education teachers Rob McCollum and Genene Morehouse have incorporated the concepts of cooperation, teamwork and understanding in Project Adventure lessons. Project Adventure allows students to explore atypical physical challenges while working with peers.
"They surprise us every year with different ideas," Morehouse said. "They work with kids they don't know. They hear others talk and they learn how to help."
Members of the PNWWRC visit other schools districts in Putnam, too. All C.V. Starr students will participate in similar activities, officials say.