Successful peer mediation looks to new school year


April 29, 2001|By Christina Bittner | Christina Bittner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN THE faculty at Brooklyn Park Middle School was getting ready for its first year of operation, the school's guidance department quietly put together a program to aid children in resolving personal or school-related conflicts that might arise.

Now, as the school nears the end of its inaugural year, the Peer Mediation Program has been declared a success.

Last summer, 30 incoming sixth-graders were selected by the faculties of their elementary schools to serve as peer mediators. To be chosen, pupils had to have shown the ability to make choices, use reasoning to understand two sides of a problem and get along well with others.

Each received two full days of training during the summer to prepare for the role.

Guidance counselor Rebecca Mitch, who provided the training, describes peer mediation as a solution-based program: "The people who are involved in the conflict meet each other face to face with a mediator. Each gets a chance to state their view of the situation. The mediators work to help solve the conflict through reason and anger-management techniques."

Conflicts that the mediators have solved included arguments among friends, the spreading of rumors and academic problems.

"We have 30 mediators, but they are all not used at the same time. They are used in a cycle. And they get additional training each month to improve their skills," Mitch said.

A mediation session allows pupils a chance to "clear the air" and realize alternatives to fighting to solve a problem. They also might discover that the root of a conflict is deeper than it appears.

"An example would be of a student who is accused of bullying or spreading rumors. Often they will do this because they are lonely and feel that they don't fit in," Mitch said.

Brooklyn Park eighth-grader Prisha Hines explained her role in mediation: "I and the co-mediator introduce ourselves, and we ask questions. I always repeat their answers to make sure that I have them right, and take notes during the meeting."

The success of the program has guaranteed its continuance next school year. "The training dates have been scheduled and the teachers are now deciding on which students may serve," Mitch said.

"It's kind of cool, and it works," said Prisha.

If the newly selected group were to ask Prisha for advice, she says it would be, "You will be kind of nervous in the beginning, but relax and don't stress over it. You can always ask for guidance if you need it."

Church flea market

English Counsel Christian Church, at 3733 Daisy Ave. in Baltimore Highlands, will hold its annual spring flea market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

A variety of merchandise will be sold, along with breakfast and lunch.

The cost to rent a table is $8. Exhibitors will not include crafters.

Information: 410-247-7990.

Babes amid the books

Two more sessions remain in the Babies in Bloom Sprint 2000 program at the Brooklyn Park Library - at 10 a.m. Wednesday this week and next.

The free program is intended for children up to 24 months old, with their caregivers. Activities include stories, songs and finger play - all designed to stimulate early development.

The library is at 1 E. 11th Ave. Information: 410-222-6260.

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