Delaware News

Conger program helps students make friends, manage conflict

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First- and second-grade students at Conger Elementary School are learning from a puppet that they are "Too Good for Violence."

Julie Krupp, project director at Drug-Free Delaware, provides workshops for more than 3,000 first- and second-graders in Delaware County through the use of the Mendaz Foundation's Too Good for Violence program.

The program focuses on developing interpersonal skills in students to help reduce risk factors in their lives.

Krupp said students are working on these interpersonal skills in their classrooms already, and the program adds to the teacher's curriculum.

"This isn't so much intervention as it is education," she said. "We're trying to help these kids learn the skills they are already learning in the classroom."

Krupp said teachers are trying to help students get along with their classmates and make the classroom a better place.

"Teachers are very pleased with their students after these workshops," she said. "They have told me that students work better together in the classroom."

Once a week for seven weeks, students attend a workshop that teaches them a particular interpersonal skill. Krupp said she uses puppets to teach students the skills, after which students have an opportunity to practice what they learned through an activity.

That might include acting in a play or writing a song about the skill they learned, she said. Some of the skills include making friends, learning how to solve problems and anger management.

One of the major lessons is how to make friends and deal with conflict. Krupp said those are considered skills necessary to helping reduce risk and pressure in a child's life.

"These protective factors (making friends and dealing with conflict) can help them resist peer pressure as they get older," she said. "It will also help them deal with anything that can be stressful for them."

Krupp said students who can learn these skills now will have more to arm themselves with throughout their entire school careers.

"It is so much easier for kids to make friends and solve problems when they are confident, comfortable and have good self-esteem," she said.

Even now, students are learning lessons that are helping them in their daily lives, she said.

"I had a student tell me that when they got angry, they went and colored a picture instead and it helped them not stay angry," she said.

"I also had a student tell me they told their friend on the playground what was upsetting them instead of just getting angry and that it worked."

The students also get a worksheet at the end of the day that they can take home to their parents with additional activities to help them practice the skills they've learned.

"It really is a privilege to work in the schools with the students," Krupp said. "It's really important that they learn these skills so they can get along with others.

"Even some adults have a hard time with these skills, but they are learning them now."

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