When Vista Academy of Visual and Performing Arts 5th grade teacher Cara Homer contacted us last summer about running our “Act Like You Matter” Workshop for their entire 5th grade class, she said she thought our program would fit perfectly with the 5th grade’s Wonder unit. All 5th graders at Vista Academy were starting off the year by reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio and having classroom discussions about the positive character traits demonstrated in the book, particularly acceptance, kindness, and empathy.
As luck would have it, I had just finished reading Wonder, so Ms. Homer and I discussed the book a bit and how perfect it is for 5th graders – the protagonist Auggie and his classmates are also 5th graders. Then, we got down to discussing what we could offer Vista Academy: An anti-bullying workshop that’s:
- Run entirely by students ages 11-18 from Theatre of Peace: Bullying Awareness Acting troupe (“TOP”)
- Centered around empowerment and demonstrating solutions to common bullying scenarios
Here are some of the scenes the remarkable 5th grade teaching team (Ms. Homer, Mr. Slattery, and Ms. Esquibel) chose for TOP to perform for their students and a peek into our empowering day at Vista Academy:
Cyber-Bullying: Fake Instagram Account
Julia (far left) witnesses Fiona (middle) and Chase cyber-bullying Zena (not pictured) on Instagram. Although she isn’t successful in stopping it while it’s happening, Julia later imagines herself in Zena’s situation and empathizes with her. Then, she calls Zena to tell her what happened and help her figure out what to do and how to report the incident.
Demeaning Athletic Ability
While Riley (far left) is verbally abusing Cameron (middle), accusing him of losing every soccer game they play and pressuring him to quit the team, bystander Brendan (far right) demonstrates acceptance of Cameron and prepares to step in and defend him.
Girl Dominance: You Can Only Be Friends with Me
Chase (2nd in from the left) reveals her character’s dominant and possessive nature as she whisks Fiona away from her two kind friends, Julia and Zena (far right.) Later in the scene, when Chase dumps Fiona again, as she always does, Julia and Zena stand by Fiona and brainstorm with her about how to break this cycle of bullying. The characters also discuss what true friendship feels like.
Exclusion at Lunch: You Can’t Sit with Us
After watching Brendan be excluded from every group he tries to sit next to at lunch, Fiona demonstrates kindness by starting a casual conversation with Brendan – asking if he likes the book they’re reading in class: Wonder. Excited chatter from students in the audience indicates they like hearing discussion among the characters on stage about the book they’re currently reading in class.
TOP Students Answer Anonymous Questions from Students in the Audience
During Part 2 of the Workshop, Cameron (2nd in from right) shares his personal experience by answering a question submitted anonymously by a Vista Academy student, “Have you ever been bullied?” Other TOP actors (pictured left to right) Chase, Brendan, Eli, Julia, and Fiona, listen and prepare to share their experiences and what they did to change the outcome of the negative situation they found themselves in.
During Part 2, in addition to Q&A, there’s also time for community-building activities. Riley (far left) and Chase lead a group of students in an activity called “Truth Up,” which helps students see how much they have in common and lays the groundwork for acceptance and inclusion.
By the end of the Workshop, all students in the audience see is positive character traits and reminders about what we demonstrated – what they can do to be part of the solution.
It’s easy (and important) to tell students that they should be kind to each other and empathize with those who are being treated poorly; but demonstrating how to be kind and have empathy takes those lessons to new level. That’s what Act Like You Matter Workshops are all about: demonstrating what students can do to curb incidents of bullying whether they are a target or a bystander and showing them how to be part of the solution.
Thank you, Vista Academy, for welcoming us into your school. We loved working with your students!
Would you like to learn more about our anti-bullying workshops and performances for K-12 in San Diego County?
Click this link to learn about Act Like You Matter: Anti-Bullying Empowerment Workshops for 7th-12th