Peacekeeping force deployed on school bus

Peacekeeping force deployed on school bus

Something revolutionary is happening on bus No.

65 from Springdale elementary school.

Karen Seidman
The Gazette
Thursday, February 21, 2008

Something revolutionary is happening on bus No. 65 from Springdale elementary school.

It’s calm.

Thanks to a pilot project launched by the school, with the help of Peaceful Schools International, peer mediators who have been assigned to the bus daily are keeping the peace – even during the sometimes rambunctious trip home at the end of the school day.

Although the project started just last week, Springdale vice-principal Marie Wahba is optimistic it will be a resounding success.

"The kids were really keen about it," she said. "They like the fact that they’re responsible and keeping the bus safe."

Springdale, in Dollard des Ormeaux, is the only school in the Lester B. Pearson School Board initiating the Big Wheels pilot project. If it’s successful, it will be used on all the buses serving the school and could easily be implemented at other schools as well.

Judy Grant, a regional co-ordinator of Peaceful Schools International who works with the Pearson board, said she was approached last spring by Mario Barrette, the board’s assistant director of community services, about applying her peaceful schools techniques to school buses.

"Within a school, we try to give the students ownership by having peer mediators," explained Grant. "Could they also maintain calm on a bus?"

Grant believes they can. She has trained about 12 students in Grades 5 and 6 on active listening and how to keep someone calm. These mediators then have the job of intervening if there are problems on the bus. Their goal is to remain neutral but keep the children involved calm.

"We want the buses to be really calm so it helps the driver to drive safely," said Wahba. "Now the older children can defuse a crisis."

Nidhi Shukla, a Grade 6 student at Springdale, said the program has been working well so far.

"I think it’s a really good idea and it should be successful," she said, adding that the younger kids on the bus don’t mind having bus monitors because they know they’re trying to help. "There used to be quite a bit of fighting and yelling at each other, but now the people on duty make sure it’s handled."

Wahba said students always rise to the challenge when they are shown trust and allowed to take ownership of a situation. She believes the students will become leaders and will help create a climate of peace on the bus.

"I know we talk a lot about peaceful schools," she said. "Our aim is to also have peaceful buses."

© CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

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