young audiences program teaches bullying prevention through the arts

Bullying prevention is a hot topic in U.S. schools. Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio is partnering with Cleveland educators and creative types to curtail such unkind behavior through the arts.

The arts education organization, which promotes innovative arts-infused learning for local children and teenagers, has created a series of anti-bullying and healthy living programs designed to empower students and create a kinder classroom community. About 20 area artists lent their imaginative expertise to upcoming programs that will use literature, dance and film to help students and teachers learn strategies to recognize and prevent bullying.

"Bullying can effect a school's entire culture," says Jennifer Abelson, director of marketing at Young Audiences. "Art is a way of creating a more empathetic environment."

A program from singer, songwriter and storyteller Susan Weber, for example, uses folk tales from diverse cultures to study characters' responses when confronted with unfriendly words and actions. Discussing bullying through stories will allow the program's elementary school-aged audience to grapple with their feelings from a safe place, notes Abelson.

"The idea is to get them young," she says. "Teaching tolerance and empathy is something that can reflect throughout their entire lives."

A program for high school students, meanwhile, uses humor and live demonstrations to share the stories of " real-life action heroes" who overcame obstacles to star on the silver screen. The brainchild of Akron-born fight director John Davis aims to help students break through self-doubt and achieve greatness.

"Soft skills" like confidence and self-esteem can create stronger, more tolerant communities, stopping bullying before it even begins, says Abelson.  

SOURCE: Jennifer Abelson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth
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