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The art of sticks and stones

Vi Le
Asst. News Editor

”Bullying affects millions of young people every year. It happens everywhere: schools, sports fields, playgrounds, even in homes,” said Barry Kornhauser, a local playwright, theater arts educator and director of the Ware Center’s Family Arts Collaborative.
Kornhauser and Mimi Shapiro, a Lancaster-based book artist, plan to conduct a multifaceted residency program at Lincoln Middle School in Lancaster, Pa. The program will start on November 11, 2013 and end in April 2014.
They will use book arts, photography, and theater to facilitate a thorough examination on the topic of bullying.
Artists from the Millersville University: South Central PaARTners will work extensively with the students of Lincoln Middle School for 60 days.
“I think one of the best ways to reduce bullying behaviors is to build empathy skills, and the arts, particularly theater, help do that very well,” Kornhauser said.
”Through their eyes” will be a record of photos taken by young students who will capture images of what is important to them. They will also photograph various representations of what they interpret as bullying. Shapiro will guide the students in creating three-dimensional interactive books. Some of the text in these books will then be dramatized on a stage.
Kornhauser believes that even though bullying is not a new issue, it should not be considered an unavoidable rite of passage. With the evolution of the internet and social media, bullying can occur more frequently and instantaneously than it did decades ago.
He was motivated to get involved after hearing heart-rending stories that have gained national attention as the result of bullying.
”I suspect that we’ve all experienced bullying from one angle or another, and there are certainly far too many tragic stories,” said Kornhauser.
Millersville University’s Department of Social Work will also look into the attitudes and behaviors of young people through other perspectives as part of the “Through their eyes” project.
The university’s professors of social work, Dr. Karen Rice and Dr. Heather Girvin, will guide social work students to conduct an evaluation on a core group of about 30 middle school students. The viewpoints and behaviors on the subject of bullying prior to the program being initiated will be assessed. After the program is over, the core group will be evaluated again through a quantitative survey and interviews with focus groups in order to gather information on the influence that the program had on the entire student body of Lincoln Middle School.
Comparisons will be made between students who participate in the program and those who do not participate in the program. Self-efficacy and other aspects of well-being will be studied, in addition to the survey, to understand the students perspectives on bullying. The core group will also start an anti-bullying campaign.
”They’ll be exposed to their efforts to diminish bullying within the school, so we want to see if their attitudes about bullying and their knowledge about bullying changes as a result of the knowledge,” said Dr. Rice.
Three dimensions of bullying will be viewed: through the eyes of the victim, the eyes of the bully and the eyes of the bystander.
”Hopefully for both the students involved as dramatists, performers, and/or audience, perspectives will be changed, eyes open, and inspiration provided to help themselves or others,” said Kornhauser. “Art can be used not only to imitate life, but sometimes to help improve it.”