09/25/11 — St. Mary's students fight bullying with 'whirled peace'

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St. Mary's students fight bullying with 'whirled peace'

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 25, 2011 1:50 AM

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Annestuart Freeman, third-grader at St. Mary School, plants a pinwheel on the front lawn Wednesday. Students participated in activities to launch an anti-bullying program at the school and to celebrate "whirled peace" in conjunction with International Day of Peace.

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Students at St. Mary School plant pinwheels in front of the school Wednesday morning to launch the anti-bullying program and celebrate "whirled peace" in conjunction with International Day of Peace.

Bullying may not be a big issue at St. Mary Catholic School now, said Principal Lynn Magoon, but that doesn't mean it couldn't sneak up on them.

"We did not have a big problem, but we also did not want to develop a big problem," she said this week. "Students can be outspoken and mean; technology provides lots of new opportunities to bully."

The school recently introduced a schoolwide effort -- Olweis Bullying Prevention Program -- designed to prevent or reduce bullying.

"Our focus is prevention," she said, explaining that the approach will be used for all grade levels, while encouraging parents to also address the issue. "St. Mary chose Olweis as a way to be proactive in working with students to create a more peaceful, accepting school."

Bullying can take on a variety of forms, the administrator said, and doesn't always have to be an overt behavior or physical brawl -- sometimes it's as simple as students not being kind to one another.

So the school, working with a volunteer parent and family counselor, brainstormed ways to introduce the program.

"(We) wanted to find a consistent language and approach to use in school," she said. "Already at SMS, students are participating in regular class meetings to openly discuss any problems and concerns, and staff members have been trained in program expectations and research.

"Throughout the school, staff are using the same language to discuss problems between students and expectations are consistent throughout the building."

St. Mary has also developed a student council for grades three though eight. Elected students are currently working with their parents and staff member sponsors to develop consequences for anyone who persists in bullying behaviors, Mrs. Magoon said. Likewise, council members will also be involved in developing celebrations and activities for classmates as rewards for good behavior.

To kick off the anti-bullying effort, school students participated in an art project to coincide with Wednesday's being "International Day of Peace."

Kristine Wright, art teacher at St. Mary, encouraged her classes to create pinwheels in all shapes and sizes as part of a "Pinwheels for Peace" project first started in 2005 by two Florida art teachers as a way for students to express their feelings about things going on in the world. Last year, more than 3.5 million pinwheels were spinning in over 3,500 locations around the globe.

In addition to the design, students were asked to write their thoughts about war and peace on one side of the pinwheel. Groups were then allowed to "plant" their pinwheels at the statue of Mary outside the school.

The "whirled peace" pinwheels were later moved inside to prevent damage when it rained, and are now on display in the trophy cases near the front office of the school.