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October 12, 2012

Vigo students learn lessons in kindness

Anti-bullying, violence prevention program part of museum trip

TERRE HAUTE — Sugar Grove Elementary kindergarten students had a blast at the Terre Haute Children’s Museum on Wednesday afternoon, whether playing in the treehouse, studying a bee hive or “excavating” for fossils.

They had plenty of opportunities to do “good” things with their hands.

But they also learned there are things they shouldn’t do with their hands, including hitting, fighting or hurting others.

The children were participating in SAVE Day, an anti-bullying and violence prevention program offered locally by the Vigo County Medical Alliance. SAVE stands for Stop America’s Violence Everywhere.

The program has been offered in Vigo County for more than 10 years, said Ellen Richter, chairwoman of the Medical Alliance SAVE program.

Students watched a video about bullying and talked about it with adults. They also made a poster with their handprints that states, “Hands are not for hitting,” which will be displayed in Terre Haute City Hall.

Later, students used their hands in a positive way as they explored and participated in the museum’s many science exhibits.

All Vigo County elementary schools will receive coloring books for first-graders and other materials with an anti-bullying, anti-violence message.

“We want to start early with the idea that this [bullying] is not OK and you shouldn’t do it and you shouldn’t put up with it,” Richter said. SAVE organizers also talked with children about what they should do if they are bullied.

The Medical Alliance pays for the field trip, including bus fare and museum entrance fee.

Later that afternoon, kindergarten students Olive Hedges and Lindsay Gifford shared what they had learned.

“You can’t hit,” Hedges said. “You can’t tell someone they are fat. That’s not nice. It’s rude.”

Gifford learned she should “never take things away from someone” unless she has that person’s permission.

Bob Compton, a Sugar Grove kindergarten teacher, said the school district wants to send a strong anti-bullying message.

It’s important to reach students when they are young because “that’s where it starts,” he said. Kindergarten students “are very accepting of each other and very open. It’s a really neat thing.”

Having the SAVE program at the museum is an “extra bonus” and helps reinforce some of the things they are learning in science, Compton said.

Angel Wells, a parent who accompanied her son, Jaylen, said SAVE “is a great program. Kids will be kids, but it’s good to make them aware of the bullying so they can stop it before it gets to be too bad.”

Jaylen said he learned “you should be nice” and not take things from people. After his interview, he quickly ran off to study a live bee hive and a corn snake in the “Critter Corner.”

Susan Phillips, a Sugar Grove kindergarten teacher, said bullying is something the class also talks about at school. She believes most children are getting the message.

“I think it’s wonderful to be able to have this program,” she said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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