School bullying continues to be an issue in the 21st century, but a week-long event at several local, early-childhood centers is seeking to tackle the problem from the ground up.
The Goddard School, a nationwide preschool system with six locations in the south metro area, is hosting Community Games Day on Feb. 11. The celebration will be the conclusion of a week-long anti-bullying program. Instilling positive behavior in children ages 6 weeks to 6 years prevents bullying in later years, according to Goddard School of Littleton owner Mandy King.
“The whole thing is to help children become confident and doing that by giving them an opportunity in a bunch of different social settings,” King said.
According to STOMP Out Bullying, a national organization anti-bullying initiative for children and teenagers, one out of every four children in the U.S. are bullied at some point in their lives. About 80 percent of these incidents result in a physical fight.
Each Goddard School’s anti-bullying week has a slightly different itinerary, but the Littleton campus will focus days on friendship, playing along, good deeds, caring and community heroism. The goal is to build confidence and positive social skills, such as encouraging fellow children who are struggling and not being overly competitive. Goddard School teachers incorporate these lessons into their daily activities, hoping to prevent children from becoming bullies.
“Bullying in the current world, especially in early childhood, is wanting to get your way and doing whatever you can to get it,” King said.
Children who don’t learn these lessons at a young age are at risk to become bullies as they enter their K-12 years. Littleton Public Schools has its own methods for dealing with bullying, starting with the student code of conduct. Positive behavior support plans also exist in 18 of the district’s schools. These programs, which exist nationwide, are meant to prevent negative behaviors while building a positive and safe environment.
“In doing this, there is a culture that is created focused on positive behavior and relationships amongst students and amongst staff,” said Melissa Cooper, the director of student support services and special education at Littleton Public Schools. “That’s the foundation of our social emotional programming.”
Goddard Community Games day, which will be at all Denver-area locations Feb. 11, is a free program designed to benefit both parents and children. Parents will learn methods for preventing bullying, while children will build relationships and self-esteem. The day is meant to be fun and will center on games and activities.
Littleton’s two major initiatives will be a canned food drive and writing 25,000 postcards to send overseas to troops. The aim is for children to learn about giving and compassion.
More information about Community Games Day can be found on the Goddard School’s website, www.goddardschool.com. There are locations in Littleton, Englewood, Centennial, Castle Rock, Highlands Ranch and Parker.
“As we foster a sense of accomplishment and purpose in each child, we build a foundation of self-confidence that we believe is the best defense against bullying,” said Sue Adair, director of education at Goddard Systems Inc.