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Students teach others about conflict management

Danielle Hoven, a seventh-grader at Schoolcraft Learning Community who is part of the "I Can Teach" program at the school, teaches sixth-graders from St. Philip's School one way to handle a bully situation Thursday at Concordia Language Villages. Pioneer Photo/Michelle Bedard

Holding out her right hand and firmly saying "Stop," Schoolcraft Learning Community seventh-grader Danielle Hoven demonstrated one way to handle a bully to sixth-graders from St. Philip's School.

Hoven and four other Schoolcraft seventh-graders taught the St. Philip's students "How Not to Be the Victim of a Bully" during conflict management training Thursday at Concordia Language Villages. Peacemaker Resources led the training for the St. Philip's students.

"My belief is you don't understand something until you're teaching it," said Sue Liedl, social and emotional learning specialist with Peacemaker Resources.

The five Schoolcraft students who taught the afternoon session on bullying during Thursday's training are involved in the "I Can Teach" after-school program at Schoolcraft. "I Can Teach" trains students to teach others about conflict management.

Liedl, who facilitates "I Can Teach," said the program started last fall at the school. Twenty-five students in grades 5-8 are currently involved in the program, and a waiting list contains more names of students interested in joining.

On Thursday, the five Schoolcraft seventh-graders led the session on bullying through talks, skits and role playing.

"As you all know, bullies are a giant problem," Schoolcraft seventh-grader Elizabeth Bellefy told the students.

"You can recognize bullies by their actions," added Schoolcraft seventh-grader Grace Hayle.

In addition to the Schoolcraft students teaching about bullying, Liedl led the St. Philip's students in a session on perception and Linda Blessing, physical education teacher at Schoolcraft, taught a session on cooperative games.

With their training, the St. Philip's sixth-graders plan to teach the school's younger students the conflict management skills they learned.

St. Philip's sixth-grader Tyler Geerdes said Thursday that he hopes to help younger students as well as older youth realize they can be peacemakers.

When students teach conflict management, it becomes integrated into their lives, Liedl said. For many of the students at Schoolcraft, she said, teaching conflict management has become a passion because they're having such success.

"They are masters of it," Liedl said.

"I love teaching," Elizabeth noted.

"Hopefully it affects others to do what we're doing," Schoolcraft seventh-grader Matt Breeze added.

Program evolves

The "I Can Teach" concept evolved from the Students Teaching Attitudes of Respect program funded by the Northwest Minnesota Foundation and sponsored by Peacemaker Resources, Liedl said.

The STAR program trains students in conflict management. The students then return to their schools and teach these skills to their classmates.

With the support of the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Liedl wrote a curriculum that is designed primarily for sixth- and seventh-graders to assist them in teaching conflict management skills. The "I Can Teach" curriculum includes manuals on several topics and a DVD of activities to go with each topic that was filmed by Novamation Studios in Bemidji.

Liedl said students are prepared to teach on a wide range of topics, from "Listening as an Art Form" to "Conflict Styles."

Students from Schoolcraft have traveled to other schools to teach conflict management. They also have taught classes at Bemidji State University and employees at businesses.

"It's not just for younger kids," Danielle said. "It's for everyone."

About a month ago, an "I Can Teach" team of three fifth-graders and one sixth-grader from Schoolcraft traveled to Warroad to train 26 teachers.

"The feedback from those teachers was, 'It was excellent,'" Liedl noted.

Next month, the "I Can Teach" program will expand.

"We're starting two more 'I Can Teach' programs in February in Kelliher and Blackduck," Liedl said.

She said the "I Can Teach" programs in Kelliher and Blackduck will be part of a collaborative project funded by the Blandin Foundation, Northwest Minnesota Foundation and Drug Free Coalition of North Central Minnesota.