By Tina Comeau
FOR THE COURIER
Participating in an online conference aimed at heightening awareness over bullying and cyberbullying was a good experience for a group of Grade 8 students at École Secondaire de Clare, says their teacher.
“There was lots of discussions on what is bullying, lots of discussion on cyber bullying,” says Martine Jacquard. “It was the first time there was a national event in French on bullying with the RCMP. It went really well considering it was the first time.”
The session the students recently took part in on Feb. 28 was part of the RCMPTalks initiative.
RCMPTalks is a live, interactive video conference hosted by the RCMP’s Centre for Youth Crime Prevention (CYCP) that engages students from six different Canadian classrooms in a discussion via social media.
In this case, bullying and cyberbullying was the topic explored by students in classrooms in Clare, and also other parts of the country including such provinces as New Brunswick. Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
A special guest of the conference was Nico Archambault, winner of season one of So You Think You Can Dance Canada, who shared his experiences of being bullied at school and then responded to questions from participating students.
RCMP Constable Victor Manuel of the Meteghan RCMP detachment also helped to set up the conference and was present with the Clare students during the live-streaming.
In honour of Pink Shirt Day, which promotes anti-bullying, the students wore pink t-shirts to symbolize that bullying behaviour will no longer be tolerated. A theme repeated often by the students who participated in the session was that students deserve to be in a safe and healthy environment, free of the negativity that bullying presents.
Jacquard notes aside from the conference that was live-streamed over the Internet via the website encounters.tigwen.org/events (you can still watch the conference in the archives), there were other classroom activities that complimented the initiative.
“In the weeks leading up to the conference we did a lot of activities. The RCMP had created lessons plans for all of the teachers from the participating schools, so all of the teachers who participated across Canada did the same activities leading up to the event.”
She says the students also created a charter of rights and responsibilities for students that were posted in the schools. These charters spoke about not judging and excluding students, and about having environments that promote respect and acceptance.
While students learned and discussed the bad side of social media as far as cyberbullying is concerned, as the conference was being live-streamed students were also encouraged to engage positively in social media.
“The students were invited to tweet and take pictures of the conference so they really liked that,” says Jacquard. “Students would use the same hashtags throughout the conference and they could look and find pictures and have conversations and retweet other students’ tweets from across Canada who were participating in the same event.”
Twenty-eight students at the Clare school participated in the live-streamed event.
Meanwhile, the discussion about bullying and cyberbullying has not ended with the close of the online conference. Jacquard says the two Grade 8 classes at the Clare school are working on posters to create awareness over the issue. These will be posted in the school both now and at the start of the next school year when an anti-bullying day is marked near the start of the school year.
Jacquard says the school also hopes to participate in other online conferences such as this recent one.
“It was a lot of work,” she says, “but it was worth it.”
For more information on RCMPTalks and CYCP, visit http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cycp-cpcj/rcmptalks-discussionsgrc/index-eng.htm