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FRES students battle bullying with kindness

Elijah Sanchez and Tyren Clayton take part in Fort Rucker Elementary School’s Café Table Challenge in February. (Army photo)

Elijah Sanchez and Tyren Clayton take part in Fort Rucker Elementary School’s Café Table Challenge in February. (Army photo)

Published: March 3, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 3, 2016) -- Students at Fort Rucker Elementary School recently took on a new challenge – a Café Table Challenge.

Throughout the month of February, FRES focused on kindness towards others and awareness about bullying – what it is and how to prevent it, said Dr. Vicki Gilmer, school principal.

“The phrase ‘treat others the way you want to be treated,’ is a part of the daily morning broadcast.  We want that to be a phrase that students hear every day and one they live out every day,” Gilmer said.

In February, there were events such as Friends in Fifth, where fifth-grade students spent an entire day dedicated to the topic of bullying. Guest Speaker Ben Bowden, from Enterprise FBC, shared his memories of school and also used students to role play a bullying episode, which led to great discussions. Fifth graders also rotated through stations where they participated in more hands-on experiences.

Additionally, guest speakers from the Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program hosted a session for students Feb. 24.  Guidance classes at FRES were also focused on what Dane Pridgen, guidance counselor at FRES, refers to as “The Promise.” This class taught students to speak up instead of acting as a bystander, to participate in activities that don’t involve teasing, to forgive others if they make wrong choices, to model good behavior, to accept others for their differences, to include others in group situations and to talk to an adult when there is a problem they cannot manage.

All these events led up to the FRES Café Table Challenge. FRES students were placed at different café tables on a rotating basis. This gave the students an opportunity to get to know all of their classmates well.  Many students sit at the same table with the same group every day. The table challenge encourages students to reach out and get to know others.

Age-appropriate conversation starters were also on the table to help students find fun topics and stories that they could share. Positive, productive, face to face communication skills are essential, but have decreased in recent years. “Students spend more time now in isolation with technology and gadgets. Providing them an opportunity to use verbal and social skills will help them to develop skills necessary for a kinder humanity,” Gilmer said.

The students enjoyed the table challenge, as well. Jamee Dean, fifth-grade student said, “I think it’s a good idea. A lot of people just do the same thing all the time and now you get to make more and more friends.”

Fifth-grade student Robert Olson agreed, “Some people don’t branch out enough and this gives you a chance to get to know more people and then you will have more people to hang out with.”

Jamee and Robert also think that this will help in other areas, such as recess.

The Café Table Challenge provided students a great opportunity to truly communicate, and the more opportunities to interact with others in a positive manner, the stronger the whole community becomes, Gilmer said.

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