Reducing Prejudice

8th Grade Prejudice Workshop_1_2MPBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

While our 6th grade class was off enjoying the unseasonably warm weather during their outdoor education trip to Pine Mountain Settlement School this week, our 8th grade class was immersed in a day and a half-long workshop focused on prejudice reduction. In order to fully engage them without interruption, we held this workshop off-campus at Gingerwoods Reception Hall, thanks to Hope and Morton Boyd G’82. The workshop was led by two facilitators from the Peace Education Program. Their program is part of an award-winning, international training process designed by the National Coalition Building Institute (ncbi.org). It is designed to build on what people have in common while also honoring their positive cultural differences. I let the other kids know at Morning Meeting on Monday what the 8th graders were doing, pointing out the fact that at St. Francis, we don’t just talk about the value of diversity, but actually bring programs to the students that help them to really understand the values and principles therein. School Counselor Julie Marks arranged and attended the workshop along with other 8th grade teachers and had this to say about it:

I had the privilege of witnessing the 8th graders expand their understanding and appreciation of the diversity within their class. The first part of their workshop was spent playing cooperative games and discovering the similarities between the students in order to create a safe environment conducive to sharing. As the day progressed, the students identified the groups in which they belong, the stereotypes of each group, and what members of each group wished others knew about them. I could tell by the looks on their faces and the comments expressed that everyone gained a great deal of insight and understanding. The second day was very emotional as many students shared deeply personal stories of times they felt teased, harassed, and/or discriminated against. The class then had the opportunity to affirm one another and pledged to stand up against these types of prejudice in the future. Overall, the workshop was a very powerful experience for all present. Below are some quotes from 8th graders about the workshop.

“This was a great chance to learn more about my classmates for me and a way to grow closer to them. As I only came to this school last year, I haven’t learned much about my classmates that I am not around all the time. The teachers taught the class really well and I learned about how to use I-statements and how to de-escalate a situation. I also was taught about how to talk to others I disagree with. It was overall a great opportunity and I’m glad I had it.”

“This workshop was very helpful because we all were able to know more about how to deal with conflict and we learned more about our classmates. We were all given the chance to share stories if we chose to. I enjoyed getting closer to my classmates and hearing about difficult times in their lives and I learned some things I never knew about them and I felt that everyone got just a little closer.”

“The workshop we went to was interesting, I thought it was extremely intriguing to hear the stories from my fellow classmates. I was able to learn so much about the people around me and find a new appreciation for them.”

Again, thanks to Julie for arranging such a positive, pro-social workshop and to the Boyd family for their generosity in hosting us!