Over a period of three weeks in September, middle school students attended a series of talks by Erika Leonard, the California program director for the international nonprofit organization KidPower. For the past 27 years, Leonard said, KidPower has been “teaching social safety skills to people of all ages, abilities and identities.”
Topics of the talks included setting boundaries, online bullying, mindfulness about online activity (for example, sharing photos of friends without his or her permission), and techniques for identifying and dealing with hurtful words and phrases.
Though the subject matter varied with each grade, Leonard said the lessons learned could be applied to all. “Each of those groups focuses on some core skills that are actually the same at each grade level,” she said. “So for example, if you were to watch the sixth grade sessions, seventh grade sessions and the eighth grade sessions, you would notice that every student practiced setting boundaries, every student practiced some form of getting help.”
Since her first visit to Harker in 2012, Leonard has taken notice of Harker’s proactive expansion of the KidPower workshops to more grade levels. Lower school workshops began last school year, and this year grade 8 students attended the sessions for the first time. Leonard plans to return to Harker in January to give talks to each of the lower school grade levels.
“Harker is really taking the impressive lead of making safety a priority by setting up sessions at different grade levels,” Leonard said. KidPower has subsequently taken measures to reinforce what students learn while keeping the sessions fresh and up-to-date.
“There is nothing essentially in the sixth grade class that wouldn’t be valuable for the eighth graders. There’s nothing in the seventh grade class that the sixth graders couldn’t also do,” said Leonard. “It’s just that by planning it this way, they get a broader experience reinforcing the same concepts using new examples over time.”
KidPower also has offered to provide professional development opportunities for Harker faculty and staff, who hope to incorporate these concepts into their everyday work.
“Somebody doing something as simple as saying, ‘thank you for speaking up,’ or ‘let’s act aware, we’re out in public,’ somebody doing something that simple is actually reinforcing safety,” Leonard said. “You could have lots of teachers doing those little things. They’re like drops of water that make a big difference.”