The Manorhaven School has made anti-bullying behavior a number one priority for the 2013-2014 school year, enlisting anti-bullying activist Lyle Cogen to conduct workshops teaching students how to identify bullying behavior and how to prevent it.
With October being National Bullying Month, Manorhaven tapped Cogen to lead the school’s “Welcome Back” assembly, where she used her one-woman show, “Sticks and Stones,” to demonstrate bullying behavior through song and discussion to the K-5th-grade student body of 434 children.
Bullying comes in many forms, from verbal taunts to physical abuse. Bullying demoralizes, demeans and harms in a myriad of ways that can stay with children throughout their lives. By trying to arm youngsters with the proper tools early on, adults are taking a proactive approach.
“As a parent, I have seen the effects of bullying firsthand,” Cogen said. “The start of the school year can be a time when kids are most often exposed to meanness, so it is the best time to provide guidance on how to recognize and tackle this important issue. And, there is no better way to bring the subject of bullying out in the open than by sharing the experience through the interactive environment of music and theater.”
Cogen conducted workshops at Manorhaven for a week, tailoring her curriculum to fit each grade. For example, in her Sticks and Stones act, Cogen uses play-acting to teach children how to recognize different kinds of bullying behavior, allowing them to discover their own behaviors in the various characters depicted, whether “bully, bullied or bystander.” A big part of the program shows kids they don’t have to be passive bystanders, but can “speak up” and become allies, discouraging bullies in the process.
She focuses on the 3 B’s—Bully, Bystander and Bullied—using songs for each “B” to show what they mean, and helping children understand how to recognize and prevent bullying.
“Lyle Cogen brought an energetic and entertaining air to an important educational program at Manorhaven School,” said Bonni Cohen, principal of Manorhaven School. “Her anti-bullying workshops provided a perfect message to start off the school year.”
Lisa Lockem, cultural arts chair for Manorhaven, was the one who found Cogan and brought the program to the school, believing that teaching through other means than lecture can drive home educational messages to young children.
“I thought that a theater-based program would have more meaning for the kids than an auditorium lecture, simply because it is more interactive and allows the kids to be more engaged with the lesson,” said Lockem.
Teachers and students reacted favorably to Cogen’s show and messages, with teachers looking forward to attending the workshops set up for them.
“I liked that Ms. Cogen used new vocabulary and different situations to explain the bullying behavior,” said Lourdes Mergler, a fifth-grade teacher at Manorhaven. “I think this type of message can set a positive tone for the year that we can continue to build on, using Ms. Cogen’s books and music to keep it fresh and engaging.”
“It was amazing; I loved it,” said Dylan Skolnick, a fifth-grade student. “I loved the songs because they were catchy and also helpful to understand the subject.”
Hudson Aarons, a fourth-grader, added, “I think this helped kids understand what to do if they get bullied or see someone else getting bullied and taught them how to be an ally.”