Message of respect, acceptance of others and anti-bullying message taught early

by Julie Williams

While York Region Schools will again embrace the global anti-bullying initiative on Pink Shirt Day, February 27, one Stouffville Montessori teaches these concepts daily through songs.  Every day, the students at Stouffville’s Strawberry Patch Montessori School sing their school motto “I will be respectful to others”. According to the school’s owner and teacher, Laurie Barry, ” In a classroom of children ages 2 1/2 to 6 years old, we teach respect and acceptance of others on a daily basis.  Mrs. Barry finds singing to be a very effective way of teaching her students.  The students have been learning The Bullying Song. “Our children learn to choose good friends to play with and how to use our words against a bully.  Being a bully means that you are not a good friend. The children have learned that we are all the same on the inside and we are all different on the outside.  And that’s okay.”  Using a human body board, each child glues a brain, lungs, stomach, heart and intestines on one side of the board and paints the other side of the board using his or her choice of skin colour and facial features.  “We have learned that everybody is special and unique and that is wonderful!”

Pink Shirt Day was inspired by an incident in Nova Scotia in 2007, when two teenagers noticed a gay student in their school was being bullied, due to the fact he was wearing a pink shirt. The two students stepped in, yet realized there was much more they could do to raise awareness of bullying. They took it upon themselves to buy and wear pink shirts to school, as well as encouraging other students to do the same, in solidarity with the bullied kid. The movement caught on throughout the school and in now celebrated in nearly 180 countries where young people wear pink shirts and take part in activities that promote anti-bullying, diversity and inclusivity. That includes the York Region District School Board

“Participating in initiatives like Pink Shirt Day is an opportunity … to come together and demonstrate that bullying is not tolerated in our system,” said Dale Brusselers, York Region District School Board communications specialist. “Creating safe, inclusive and caring school environments are of the utmost importance.”

In terms of involvement, he says the schools are encouraged to participate by sending out communications to families that speak to the importance of Pink Shirt Day and encourage students to wear pink. “Schools will also engage in a number of different activities that include assemblies on bullying awareness, displays of support, pledges of acceptance or pledges to help end bullying, as well as anti-bullying classroom activities,” he said. Activities vary depending on the school.

main photo:  Students from Strawberry Patch Montessori are excited to learn The Bullying Song. (back row) Margo Permitin, Max Brough, Avery Permitin, Giana Eliadis, and Gabe Colomvakos

(front row) Giuliana Cassano, Katarina Ristevski, Sophia Cassano and Carter Skelton. Julie Williams photo

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