Students learn to solve peer playground problems
© Jocelyn Turner – Amherst Daily News
Melanie Wolfe (right) the program support teacher at Cumberland North Academy helps her ‘peer mediators’, Ryder Codling (left), Myka Inglis and Greg Ripley get ready for their next shift.
BROOKDALE – You see them on the playground, just hanging out with their friends but there’s something different about them. Donned in bright orange vests, students at Cumberland North Academy have taken on a new responsibility: helping solve playground disputes among their peers.
The peer mediator program was started a several years ago as part of the CARES (character and resiliency education skills) program. Although the (peer mediator) program was discontinued this year, Melanie Wolfe, the program support teacher decided to bring it back and train the students herself.
“We train children in the fall to be available on our playgrounds, within the school, to do peer mediation,” she said. “It’s not that they’re policing or patrolling or on the look out for wrong-doings, but they’re there in case children need someone to help them sort out some problems.”
Children are selected by their teachers to join the program and are trained by Wolfe to be able to properly deal with the different problems they may encounter among their peers. Currently, Wolfe said she has about 30 students in Grades 3 to 6 in the school each year doing rotational duties.
“If you and I had a problem, we’d seek out a peer mediator to help us sort through the problem so that I could see your point of you and you could see my point of view,” said Wolfe.
Each student goes through training and practice before being handed their vests. The students learn how to be attentive listeners through different activities and ‘I messages’, how the students feel about the situation the mediator is there to solve. Wolfe said the program is great for the students that are involved as they learn good problem solving skills, which the students can also use in solving some of their own problems.
“It usually takes about 25 minutes for a session then, the (mediators) have paperwork to do,” said Wolfe.
Of course, not all playground disputes go straight to the mediators. Some problems do go to the staff.
“Stuff like, ‘he pushed me’, or ‘what was he doing with my toy? It was on my desk’,” she explained. “They’re not dealing with ‘attacking’ behaviour. They’re helping two children solve a problem.”
Student and peer mediator Ryder Codling was very eager to start his training. In fact, Wolfe said he had been asking to join the mediators since he was in Grade 2.
“I thought it would be helpful for the school to have more help,” he said. “I like that I can help solve problems. But it’s hard to solve them sometimes.”
Codling isn’t the only student who was excited to join the mediators. Fellow students Myka Inglis and Greg Ripley also join the program and both like helping out on the playground.
“My favourite part is helping the other kids with their problems,” said Inglis. “They all have different problems and it’s fun to help solve them so they will all be happy. Sometimes, it can get out of hand and I have to get another mediator or one of the teachers, but that’s not often.”
Ripley has been a mediator since Grade 3, now entering his second year helping out around the school.
“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s fun then and it’s still fun now. It’s nice to help kids with their problems. The vests are cool.”