Published Fri, Jan 25, 2013 6:01 pm Dateline
A group of Athens County elementary school students have found a creative way to tackle the issue of bullying in schools.
Fifth grade students at Alexander Elementary School in Albany recently created a four and a half minute video called "Alexander Elementary Erases Meanness," in which the students are shown ripping up pieces of paper with hurtful words on them and replacing them with nicer words.
Since the video was first uploaded to YouTube on Jan. 4, it has been viewed more than 650 times.
While the students are the stars in the anti-bullying video, they didn't make it by themselves. Their fifth grade teachers Jennifer Ray, Jane Heinold and Sarah Klinger said they decided to produce the video to address destructive interactions between the fifth grade students.
Ray said several of her students approached her prior to the winter break and revealed that they were being picked on by others in class. It was at that point, she said, that she knew the issue had to be addressed.
"[Fifth grade] is [when] the kids who can potentially become mean kids really start to become mean," said Ray. "Ultimately, our job is not just to create fabulous thinkers and kids who are independent, but kids who can really function in their community and be kind and be great to others."
Ray said she set aside two days to talk with her class about bullying. She had her students list mean words on the dry-erase board in her room. At the end of the week, the students erased those words and replaced them with kinder ones, essentially "erasing meanness" from her classroom.
Since their teachers addressed the issue of bullying, several fifth graders say they've already seen a change in their classmates.
"It encouraged a lot of kids to tell them to be themselves and no matter who they are, no matter what other people say, that you're your own person," said Macey Mitchell, a fifth grade student at Alexander Elementary School.
Another fifth grade student, who said he had been bullied before, shared Mitchell's sentiment.
"I think it'll change people, like bullies, a lot," said Tanner MacDowell.
While aiming to make their anti-bullying video go viral, Ray said her students always alert her when they get another YouTube hit.