2011-05-27 / Schools

Middle schoolers learn lesson in peaceful mediation

By Anna Bitong


TALKING IT OUT—Volunteer Rocky Mori, right, and a trio of Hillside Middle School students review a script for a role-playing exercise during the school’s Peer Mediation Jamboree on May 17. 
Photo courtesy of Sandra Rubio TALKING IT OUT—Volunteer Rocky Mori, right, and a trio of Hillside Middle School students review a script for a role-playing exercise during the school’s Peer Mediation Jamboree on May 17. Photo courtesy of Sandra Rubio Fifteen seventh-graders from Hillside Middle School were recently taught how to communicate effectively and resolve conflict as part of a program that aims to prevent violence among youths.

Peer Mediation Jamboree, a traveling program presented by the Ventura Center for Dispute Settlement, was offered May 17 to Hillside students.

Middle-school students in Camarillo, Ventura and Oxnard have also learned lessons in peaceful mediation this year.

Sandra Rubio, executive director of VCDS, said 120 students in the county will have been trained in peer mediation this school year, triple the number the organization mentored when the program began three years ago.

With the financial help of corporate sponsors, Rubio hopes to one day offer the jamboree yearround.

She said the main purpose of the program is to give middle school students lifelong skills to deal with problems and communicate effectively through role playing and asking open-ended questions such as “How does that make you feel?”

“The kids get so involved in their roles as actors. Each disputant is given underlying, realistic issues,” Rubio said.

Then participants are shown constructive ways to resolve the issues.

“Miscommunication can escalate,” Rubio said. “Hopefully they will utilize these skills in their daily lives and prevent violent confrontation. They will learn how to communicate instead of holding grudges and spreading gossip.”

Teacher Maria de Ruyter said good citizenship and teacher recommendations were considered in selecting the peer mediators.

“They learned to problem solve and to help the other person come up with solutions, not just give solutions.

“They were very excited about it. It’s a wonderful program,” de Ruyter said.

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