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Debut of New Anti-bullying Curriculum Oct. 4

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UNH Cooperative Extension launches a new campaign to fight bullying and peer victimization among New Hampshire students Oct. 4 at the Red River Theater in Concord.

“Courage to Care,” a curriculum designed to develop positive school culture and climate among middle school students, will debut with local students who were actors in the curriculum’s “video jolts.” This effort is enhanced by a nearly $133,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a division of the U.S. Department. of Agriculture.

The new program is the brainchild of UNH Cooperative Extension’s Malcolm Smith, Rick Alleva and Extension family and consumer resources educator Thom Linehan, as well as staff from UNH’s Browne Center and department of social work.

Through early support from the N.H. Endowment for Health, the team created a curriculum that uses “video jolts,” directed and filmed by Manchester’s Heartwood Media, in combination with challenge activities and experiential learning, to develop student’s social and emotional learning in the areas of dealing with group pressure, compassion, kindness, courage and assertiveness.

The USDA funding will support testing of the program’s effectiveness with three rural school districts in New Hampshire, as well as to train faculty and staff from those districts on how to use the program. Patrick Shannon, an associate professor of social work at UNH, is developing an evaluation of the program’s effectiveness in changing school culture around bullying. If the program proves successful, the team plans to distribute it at minimal cost throughout New Hampshire and the nation.

“This will be the first program of its kind in the nation that we know of,” Smith said, who is spearheading the project. “We are really trying to see if we can motivate students to make their schools safer and more friendly places to learn.  If it works, we want to share it with everyone.” The program will also include training for parents of children who participate in the study, on how to deal with bullying on a family level.

In June, 25 young actors and actresses from across New England volunteered to act in the videos, and production was overseen by Heartwood Media’s Creative Director, Chris Conroy. The students and their families donated their time and talents to the project, to ensure it represented real life in New Hampshire’s schools. The purpose of these short “video jolts” is to engage the students in thinking about real-life situations in which their behavior could change the outcome for someone who is being picked on, excluded, or being put down.
At the Oct. 4 premiere, the actors and actresses and their parents will view the videos for the first time.  This effort is designed to help New Hampshire schools implement the student training requirement of the New Hampshire Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Act that was updated in 2010.  The law requires schools to become more pro-active in cases of student bullying, as well as providing training to teachers, parents and students on the topic.

For more information, contact Smith at Malcolm.smith@unh.edu, or at 2-7008.