Bullying that escalates to violence doesn’t cross the path of all our children. Violence sits at the extreme end of a spectrum of shades of insensitivity to others. Violence is the end result of an infection in full bloom, requiring coordinated efforts to change its course. From a preventative perspective, we need to grow an environment in which the shades of bullying cannot find fuel to grow.
What if, in addition to programs that address end-result outcomes of violence, we were to approach the early years of education with community building activities that promoted inclusion and friendship among our youth? What if we were to consider a simple, low cost activity that can actually accomplish this outcome, with additional positive benefits? There are community members who have discovered that knitting groups create an inclusive community experience that enriches and strengthens academic performance:
- Students as young as six participate
- Students make friendships and mentor their peers
- Inter-generational relationships are created
- Skills learned:
- Follow-through and mastery
- Improvement in fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Middle school program for at-risk students:
- Caring, one-on-one relationships develop between adults and youth
- Afghan squares for donation to charities are often first projects
- Problem solving
- Critical thinking
The two programs above come from New Jersey and Oregon – community members working the same territory, finding the same results. We can learn from them and adopt these programs with youth nationwide. Outstanding projects that are creating the results we need can be brought to all of our youth, not just a few school systems where these projects originate.
A community member in upstate New York shared this example:
Years ago I taught a blind girl (2nd grader) and her mom how to knit. The daughter went crazy knitting scarfs. She used pencils, and anything with a point. Her classmates started to take an interest in her after. She had been treated poorly by many of them because of her “difference”. The teacher and her mother put together a program where the blind girl began to teach her sighted classmates how to knit. The mother taught the other mothers… The community of caring grew from those knitting needles, friendships formed, and a little girl felt community for the first time!
Knitting is one example of a solution we have created. There is so much we can build – with existing resources – with low cost, available resources – that will grow an underpinning beneath the violent outcomes at the forefront of our problem solving. We can work from both ends of this equation to create a result that will not only address a widespread infection but replace it with a strong, healthy, sustainable, growth pattern that will spawn more of the good stuff we are capable of creating together as a people.