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DoDEA educators, host nation partner in anti-bullying efforts

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shanice Ship
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

When a child is singled out at school and faces verbal, social, and physical confrontations with other children, it can leave lasting negative effects. This experience is a reality for many children worldwide and brings to light a difficult situation that parents and educators face in academic institutions.

The Department of Defense Education Activity educators supporting the tri-base community of Royal Air Force Lakenheath, RAF Mildenhall, and RAF Feltwell have taken the charge of creating an anti-bullying environment through their focus on self-awareness in children, and for these efforts, have been awarded the Lt. Gen. (Ret) H.G. “Pete” Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award.

The educators partnered with host nation entities to create a historical project, titled “I have three homes,” to connect local national communities with U.S. military children stationed in the United Kingdom.

“This was an inaugural project that looked to shape our children in the awareness of themselves, their community, and their roles as future influencers by giving them a voice,” said Sara Schmidt, principal. “A key piece of anti-bullying is knowing oneself and one's worldviews. The only way to do that is through experiential learning and that’s what this project allowed to happen.”

Through the partnership with Suffolk Archives, the project was admitted in the premiere of an online exhibit that enables people to learn about the history of their local communities and ways to connect with them while strengthening the relationship between both communities.

“What’s so great about the project is the togetherness it brings to our local U.K. communities and the military communities here,” Caletha Ellis, a DoDEA educator said. “The children learn that there are many similarities, but even better, our differences are celebrated.”

According to Ellis, behavior is just another form of communication, so when teachers look at what bullying is, it is often to exert power over someone. When educators can work to give everyone a voice and increase self-awareness, that's how one can be effective with anti-bullying measures, she said.

Over 500 children from all five DoDEA schools on base had the opportunity to contribute to the project. Children were encouraged to share their views of the U.K. through creative outlets such as painting, informational journaling, and drama skits.

“One of the wonderful things that military-connected students really seem to have is that built-in resilience from being the new kid frequently,” Sarah Brady, a DoDEA educator. “With a project like ‘I Have Three Homes’, they can highlight that element of their unique experience and perspective because they know what it feels like to create new connections.”

One of the reasons children are bullied or become bullies themselves is due to lack of power and their voices being heard, Brady says.

“You can see the awe in their eyes and hear how proud they are to see their work online or in a book,” Andrea Stanley, a host nation DoDEA instructor said. “That’s what makes this so amazing, you get to see their self-confidence grow right before your eyes as they own it. Anti-bullying isn’t just what we teach them at that point, they become ambassadors of the awareness. ”

Liberty Wing personnel could see the traveling displays at locations like the medical group and the base exchange. The traveling displays will also be posted at DoDEA Lakenheath complex school and be part of the opening exhibition, entitled the “Friendly Invasion” at the Suffolk County Council Archives in Ipswich, U.K., before being archived.

“Our DoDEA educators know the critical importance of helping our military-connected students share and own their life stories,” said Schmidt. “Not only did they guide our children through these activities, but they also allowed the students an opportunity to gain life skills that will help them grow in any community.”

Through celebrating cultural differences, 48th Fighter Wing military children help strengthen the community by sharing their experiences and demonstrating the power of their voices.