On Tuesday, January 17, Champlain’s faculty and students led an assembly to honor the work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After our school song, music teacher Ms. Betsy Greene led students in “Martin,” later to be followed by “We Shall Overcome,” and “What One Little Person Can Do.” Ms. Tracey Bellavance’s kindergarteners read a poem together and presented their own writing about Dr. King. A group of third-grade girls and a kindergartener then explained and reenacted their experience with non-violent problem solving through peer mediation. Theirs was the first peer mediation session at Champlain this school year, with caring classmates jumping in to help anyway they could, not knowing their actions would bring about a new initiative that would involve dozens of students just a few weeks later.
Burlington’s elementary guidance curriculum covers a wide range of topics, always returning to its basis of educating for peace and social responsibility. Starting the week of January 23rd, all 4/5 classes will participate in a one-hour workshop in Vermont’s mandated policy for the Prevention of Harassment, Hazing, and Bullying (F29). This education is in response to students’ questions and concerns over the past months, coupled with the great interest among students when we covered this topic during peer mediation training.
In each class, school counselor Greg Kriger, student behavior coach Kendre Guinane, and I will team-teach with peer mediators to explain the policy and procedure, and provide examples and nonexamples of all three areas. We will also define the federally-identified categories protected from harassment. These include race, color, religion, creed, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, or disability. In the future, Champlain will teach this workshop at the start of each school year in grades 4/5.
On Monday, January 30, the educational theater group Puppets in Education will present to all grades throughout the school day on bullying prevention and cultural diversity. Using life-size puppets, Puppets in Education teaches children “to keep themselves safe and healthy and to appreciate each other’s physical and cultural differences.” Champlain is one of four schools selected to benefit from generous funding by Ronald McDonald House Charities to Puppets in Education.