One might expect to walk into a kindergarten classroom on a Wednesday morning and find a rambunctious, energetic environment.
On this day however, a hushed atmosphere reigned as a dozen Diamond Jenness students made their weekly visit to Shirley Coleman’s kindergarten class at Harry Camsell School. The older students were paired up with the younger ones, reading to each other under the watchful eyes of the Leadership and Resiliency Program (LRP) co-ordinators Dian Papineau-Magill and Jessica Carriere.
The program, now in its fourth year, was designed to “enhance youth’s internal strengths and resiliency in order to prevent their involvement in substance use and violence and promote optimum youth development.”
Carriere said that it helps students learn citizenship and develop various skills.
“The focus is on becoming a role model,” she said.
“The older students learn facilitating skills, public speaking skills, and the kids really look forward to seeing their big buddies every week.”
Coleman said her students relish the opportunity to spend some time with older kids, and also enjoy the skill-building exercises that take place in the gym following the reading portion.
“The big buddies also do a puppet show at the end of each term, which the kids love,” she said.
“It also gets the younger kids interested in puppetry.”
The other kindergarten teacher, Dorothy Lirette, emphasized the positive interaction created by the visit.
“It’s nice for them to spend time with someone else, older kids who are role models to them,” she said.
“It teaches the older students to develop responsibilities and allows them to make a bond with younger students.”
The LRP is made up of three components: the Resiliency Groups, which are “facilitated discussion groups focusing on building leadership and resiliency skills”; Service Learning Opportunities, which is an “opportunity to practice leadership/resiliency skills in a community setting”; and Alternative Adventure Activities, an “opportunity to practice leadership skills in a challenging setting.”
Papineau-Magill said the last component, which can include skiing and snowboarding for example, is a way for teenagers to see alternative forms of entertainment.
Other activities include a photo voice program where students investigate a particular social issue, and make a presentation to fellow classmates on how it impacts our community. Grade 8 students are taking part in a recycling program while Grade 9 students help organize the Moms ‘n’ Tots event at the Hay River Centennial Library.
The LRP is a five-year pilot project funded by the National Crime Prevention Center, to the tune of $1.4 million.
— Myles Dolphin