Warwick Valley Middle School, Warwick NY
Debra Leporati and her 7th grade class
In the Fall of 2010, BullyBust teamed up with the Broadway show WICKED to create “Stand Up to Bullying,” a national bully prevention Student Learning Guide and Teacher Tool Kit with lessons designed to raise awareness about the harmful effects of bullying on victims, bystanders and bullies themselves. These supplements educated students on how to prevent bullying using the inspiring story of the Broadway musical WICKED and real-world examples from the news.
Ms. Leporati truly helped bring the BullyBust/ WICKED “Stand up to Bullying” student guide to life in her classroom by engaging students in real-life conversations about how they can become upstanders - instead of passive bystanders – in their school. The “Defying Gravity” essay contest was designed to help schools promote upstander behavior in the classroom and allow students to share their stories about how they stood up to bullying in their own lives, drawing on the inspiring story of WICKED. All of her 7th graders took part in the contest, and shared their experiences on how they overcame bullying, stopped bullying others, or stood up for a victim of bullying in their own lives. In addition, Ms. Leporati worked through many of the classroom-based activities with students and found ways to enrich them by encouraging student writing on the topic. She asked students to submit their best upstander ideas, for how they could work together to prevent bullying at Warwick Middle School, and these ideas will form the basis for a student-led engagement project in the 2011-12 school year.
Ms. Leporati also explored themes of bullying through students favorite books, poems, and media, using these opportunities to have in-depth conversations with her students about the values they hold and the way others should be treated. By highlighting topics that are close to them and using themes from WICKED, Ms. Leporati helped students recognize bullying behavior more readily and develop strategies for dealing with it effectively when bullying occurs.
Seventh-grade student at Warwick, Natalie D., was a finalist for the “Defying Gravity” contest for her powerful essay. Ms. Leporati and her 7th grade classes' dedication to this work brought them to New York City to see the show live on Broadway. Prior to the performance, the students attended a free workshop led by the WICKED cast members, sending the message that we can all be “upstanders” and become part of the solution to end bullying. Beyond the benefits of the contest, Debra reported that she noticed a change in her classroom. The bullies became more conscious of their behaviors, the victims felt supported, and the passive bystanders became active Upstanders. The BullyBust program has become a catalyst of change beginning with her 7th grade class and endeavors to expand its reach to all of Warwick Valley Middle School. Ms. Leporati and her classes have become an important agent and powerful partner in our mission to end bullying.
As Debra Leporati notes, “I spoke with the students about this. Do we want war or peace? If we can teach the children how to deal with conflict in ways that do not exclude but include, that do not break down but build up and empower, then the future can be bright. Thank you for this project. It is important.”