Sticks and Stones: Artist in Residence Program Targets Bullying

GILMANTON — Later this month, students at Gilmanton School will use the power of the arts to explore one of the most troubling issues affecting young people today--bullying.

Artist-educators Jeff Erwin and Skip Brunette will spend two weeks in residency at the school working with students of all ages to tackle this complex subject. Their program, called Sticks and Stones: Words do Matter, has been praised throughout the state for its innovation, creativity, and community building. The residency will culminate with a final performance on Thursday, April 10 at 6:30 p.m., which will be open to students, parents, and community members.

Bullying has been recognized as one of the most challenging problems facing schools, young people, and families. No longer limited to the school hallway or playground, bullying now occurs on social media, through texting, on the bus, at school events, and in the community. For victims, bullying can result in school absences, falling grades, anxiety, depression, and even suicide. One of the keys to stopping bullying is to create a school community where kids and adults are not afraid to stand up for what is right.

The Sticks and Stones program will include workshops for students and teachers, focused on identifying the causes and effects of bullying, the importance of kindness, and how kids can change from being bystanders to "upstanders" who are not afraid to stand up for peers who are being bullied. Role-playing, visual arts, music, drama, dance, and writing will be used to explore these topics and create solutions to prevent bullying and empower students. According to the program's website, "Sticks and stones makes a strong case for the idea that KINDNESS and ACCEPTANCE are immensely more powerful and rewarding than the stature one may gain from intentionally hurting, intimidating or isolating others."

During the residency, the artists will spend time with students in each grade, and work in depth with a core group of seventh graders to develop and stage a multimedia performance showing what they have learned. After the evening performance on April 10, there will be a daytime performance for all students and staff on Friday April 11. For more information about this program, contact art teacher Brynn Potter or music teacher Mary Sawyer at Gilmanton School, (603) 364-5681, or visit Jeff Erwin's website, http://www.trashcanlidproductions.