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Increased kindness, empathy in Elk Point schools following Dare to Care sessions

Elk Point schools focus on kindness year-round.
‘One kind word can change an entire day” reads the message of F. G. Miller High School’s library commons window, which was already circled last week with heart shaped sticky notes containing warm wishes and kind thoughts. / Submitted photo

ELK POINT – In the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, students at Elk Point Elementary School and F. G. Miller Jr./Sr. High School each spent a day in information sessions and role playing under the guidance of Kim Edwards, B. Ed, facilitator of Dare to Care sessions, a program that received the 2015 Government of Alberta Inspiration Award for Leadership in Bullying Prevention.

Close to 100 parents and other adults attended the adult information session that followed, learning that grades five to eight are the peak years for bullying, and that while 15 per cent of students are the targets of bullying, a whopping 79 per cent are the silent majority, hearing and seeing bullying but remaining silent about it, and just six per cent are bullies, two of those per cent the ringleaders and the other four followers, perhaps fearing that if they don’t follow, they too will be bullied.

Bullying, Edwards said, “Is a learned behavior, and so is empathy,” and it appears that those sessions at the beginning of the school year have made a start in teaching the students a lesson in empathy, and the staff and parents to be watchful for issues.

According to F. G. Miller principal Colin Bjorkman, "The Dare to Care presentations have helped create a common language for students, staff and parents in terms of identifying and understanding the difference between bullying and other types of behaviour, such as mean moments and peer conflicts. Although the presentations were excellent, it takes the daily vigilance of all involved to effectively deal with this issue.

The goal is to create an environment adverse to bullying, where if it does occur, it is quickly brought to the attention of an adult." F. G. Miller’s theme for the week is "Plant seeds of kindness and see what grows", Bjorkman said.

Activities planned for the week include a pink pancake breakfast hosted by the parent council, the opportunity to write thank you notes to hand to individuals or to put on the ‘heart wall,’ a photo booth and smile cookies. Just across the foyer from the office, rows of heart-shaped messages already border the saying, ‘One kind word can change an entire day.’ Across the street at Elk Point Elementary, principal Leanne Vinge echoed Bjorkman’s thoughts regarding the presentations, and said that last week, the Grade 2/3 class delivered valentines and cookies to Heritage Lodge residents, and that, “"All month, staff have had the opportunity to complete a Kindness Calendar which includes acts of kindness for others, but also kindness for ourselves, to allow the ripple effect of positive health and well-being flow through EPE and beyond.”

This week, Vinge says, “All Performing Arts classes will be participating in a Kindness Drama Circle. Each student will return from the long weekend to find a kindness quote on their locker. Classes will be completing a “What Kindness Means” activity in conjunction with FCSS, and classrooms will participate in a number of their kindness activities from the resources gathered by our amazing Family School Liaison Worker, Elaine Ziomek.”