You know you’re at a school that values good citizenship, kindness, confidence, and empathy when you see artwork like this on campus:
These and other empowering messages greeted us when we stepped onto the Ashley Falls campus recently to run our Act Like You Matter Workshops with Ashley Falls 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. Here’s a peek into our day at Ashley Falls and some of the scenes Principal Abby Domingo chose for Theatre of Peace (“TOP”) to perform for her students:
In this heart-wrenching scene, Bella (middle, sitting) shows us what happens to a bullied child when she goes home after being mistreated by kids at school. She’s haunted by what they’ve said and fights going to sleep because she doesn’t want tomorrow to come – when she will have to go back to school and face more abuse. Bullies (pictured left to right) are played by Stephen, Sofie, Josh, and Gianna. Later in the scene, Bella uses a breathing technique to help her calm down. Then, she comes up with a list of people in her life who she can to turn to for help, and she even mentions Mrs. Domingo to remind the students that they can turn to her. Bella demonstrates that you don’t have to be a victim of bullying just because you’re a target of bullying.
After watching Stephen (far left) be shunned by several groups he tries to sit with at lunch, Gianna (middle) empathizes with him and starts up a conversation. This scene demonstrates that anyone can make a difference in someone else’s life. You don’t have to be the bravest, most outspoken, or most popular kid at school to be able to help someone out; all you have to do is notice if someone is having a hard time, and then reach out to them. Exclusion at Lunch is also our most popular scene: chosen by 100% of the schools we’ve worked with. It’s relevant to so many students.
First, we show students in the audience how cyber-bullying can start as a joke among friends and then spread like wildfire as more people join in. We see Julia struggle under the pressure to conform. Later, Julia (far left) listens to her conscience and gathers the courage to call Gianna (far right), tell her the truth, and brainstorm about what they can do and who they can report the cyber-bullying to. This scene highlights that (1) it’s never too late to do the right thing, and (2) even in a dire situation, there are still things you can do to make the situation better for yourself, and there are people you can turn to for help.
Rumor Spreading About the New Girl
Gianna (2nd from left) doesn’t like the new girl at school, Julia (not pictured), so she makes up rumors about her and tells Bella (3rd from left.) Cameron and Josh (far right) overhear and start texting the rumors, while Stephen (far left) calls friends to spread the gossip.
Later, Sofie (2nd from left) hears the rumors, but rather than spreading them, she asks Julia (far left) if they’re true. Julia stands up for herself, and together, they confront Gianna and Bella to restore Julia’s reputation. This scene demonstrates the value of thinking for yourself and the importance of standing up for yourself and others.
TOP Student Facilitator
In between scenes, Lexie connects with the students in the audience, making sure they noticed key aspects of each bullying scenario and emphasizing the strategies different characters used to shut down the bullying. Something especially cool about having Lexie as our Facilitator that day is that she used to be student at Ashley Falls! We’ve never has that happen at a school before – so awesome!
Gathering Anonymous Questions from Students at Ashley Falls
After the performance part of our Workshop, TOP students dispersed into the audience, handing out index cards and pencils so students could submit anonymous questions for us to answer. Questions ranged from serious (Have you ever been bullied?) to silly (What’s your favorite animal?)
Stephen (far right) was the first to answer this question at Ashley Falls. His personal story is an important one for students to hear; in fact, we think he has such a valuable message about being true to yourself that he’s getting his own blog post in the near future! The link will be here once it’s live. Other TOP students (pictured left to right) Sofie, Cameron, Lexie, Josh, Julia, Bella, and Gianna listen and prepare to share their experiences, too.The students in the audience always seem surprised to hear that we’ve been bullied, too. Sharing our experiences helps each of us to realize that we’re not alone and there are many things we can do to curb bullying.
Thank you again to Mrs. Domingo, Ms. Alper, the wonderful 4th, 5th, and 6th grade teaching teams, and the PTA for welcoming us into your school! We loved working with your students, and we loved the messages of empowerment posted around your campus, like this one:
Let’s be part of the solution together!
Ashley Falls is the second school in the Del Mar Union School District that we’ve had the pleasure of working with; earlier in 2017 we worked with Ocean Air’s 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. No matter what district your school is in and what ages your students are, we have programs for you. Click the following links to learn more: