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Karns City: A Sample Program

Click here for the sample materials


Suggestions for creating a "Starfish" - Put Down Free School

The program can be altered and adjusted to all situations, ages and needs. This is your "call" for your school and community. The program is proactive and preventative in nature, can be a bully free program, peer mediation related, conflict resolution and is really meant to create not only safe schools, but schools where learning is fun in a caring, compassionate environment. This results in a natural movement to put-down free schools.

I usually begin with some sort of teacher/staff presentation which can be 30 minutes before the student presentations or longer as an in-service workshop lasting 3 to 6 hours-teachers are actively involved. My most effective outreach involves individual classroom or grade-level put-down free presentations because the targeted kids have a better chance of telling their stories and not being intimidated by a large assembly setting. A parent presentation usually follows the classroom presentations. Then teacher teams (those who really embrace the starfish philosophy) of problem experts and student teams are formed and trained to sustain and maintain the program. Parents are often included in the training, cycle and become great team members. The student team should represent a diverse cross-section of the student "groups" in your school, especially our quiet, wonderful, forgotten middle kid. They can work on an action plan for the school.

It is a K-12 program, but K-6 is the target to begin when you have not had any of this before. We use grades 4-7 as impact grades, with 7-11 being the future peer leadership trainers in the "kids helping kids" idea. We have established high school student teams-community helpers; tutors; little buddy starfish for new students; Peer Mentoring programs; starfish helpers; school helpers, technology helpers/support; peer mediators just to name a few. The program will establish networks of support for the students, staff, parents and community where kids can learn to report out to save lives and create a safe school environment-"good telling" is the key.



What do we use?

Below is the type of materials that were used in the Karns City School District and would be used in schools everywhere. These are the basics of the Starfish program, but they are modified for each school that it is used in. This has two general areas - students and teachers. Of the outline below, the first four points are aimed towards the students, and the last two major points are for the teachers.

Classroom Techniques and Strategies that Deal with Put-Downs


  1. Clearly discuss/define a "Put-Down"
      Put-Down: A verbal or non-verbal action that creates or fosters a negative feeling within a person or group.

  2. List some common put-downs
    1. Students can scribe - "spelling doesn't count"
    2. All comments go on chart
    3. Some may need clarified/explained
    4. Keep these posted in the room

  3. List reasons/situations where we use put-downs
    1. Accept all answers
    2. Clarify if needed

  4. List how put-downs make you feel
    1. Accept all answers - give people a chance to explain these feelings if you feel they need to express this - clarification
    2. Discuss these as needed

  5. Eliminatee put-downs in the classroom
    1. Constantly make students aware of put-downs
    2. Don't verbalize - we "snap" (fingers) at the person we hear-see using put-down (no coment - Just snap)
    3. Contract a put-down free room
      1. Teacher give - video - night out... (an ecstatic strategy)
      2. Student gives - apology - fine
      3. Establish non-negotiables:
          No name calling
          Check anyone's paper
          Work in anyone's group
          No teasing
      4. Post contract in the room - have all sign
    4. Donstant help/encouragement with maintenance

  6. Classroom strategies/techniques
    1. Noncompetitive recess - children choose from a variety of games they have chosen - no teams picked by students
    2. Seat drawings every other month - they sit where they draw their number
    3. Color drawing for seating in cafeteria
    4. Do a variety of team builders - regularly scheduled and processed by students
    5. Do social nights together - after school - some involve parents
    6. Set up a parent night to work through the put-down issue - this then carries over to home life

Karns City School Districts Prevention Programs


Put Down Presentation in Third and Fourth Grade

Train Grades 5 and 6 to Facilitate Grades K-2

Have Teachers As Problem Experts in Each Building

Seventh Grade Day — Teambuilding/Initiatives/Fun

    Peer Mentoring programs
    Peer Tutors
    School Helpers
    Community Outreach
    Starfish Committee
    Technical Development
    TATU (Teens Against Tobacco Use)
    These students go through a weekend training inolving a series of activites that break down cliques, improve communication, promote teamwork/acceptance/respect, put down free training, high ropes/initiatives, deep and serious interaction that promotes understanding, builds tolerance, and understanding of differences. This program is preventive in nature and we are fortunate to have such a proactive program.

Peer Leadership Programs


The Karns City Senior High Team plans to train 40 students (grades 10-12) as peer leaders during a weekend residential outing. The dates for the Senior High Peer Leadership Program are Oct. 17. 18, 19, 1998, with the site to be at Camp Crestfield in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.

The purpose of the Peer Leadership Program is to develop positive student leaders who can influence many other students at the junior/senior high school to become more positive-minded in both attitude and behavior. The goals are to:

  • develop communication skills and improve interaction
  • promote individual development and group cooperation
  • increase self awareness
  • enhance self esteem
  • develop peer support systems for students, and
  • increase pride and a sense of belonging

    The students selected for the Peer Leadership Programs will include as many facets of the student population as possible. The programs are looking for students who exhibit some of the following characteristics:

  • potential leadership qualities
  • strength of character
  • positive attitude
  • maturity
  • exhibits support for others
  • exhibits a need for some support
  • change in behavior
  • change in peer group
  • change in attendance, and
  • potential school/home problems

    The programs will provide opportunities for personal growth by the students. The programs will be led by high school staff and community representatives. The activities will include the following:

  • development of positive self-image;
  • communication skills
  • leadership development
  • problem solving
  • dealing with stress
  • trust activities
  • outdoor activities
  • team building
  • cooperation
  • coping with peer pressure
  • contracting
  • maxi link, and
  • psychological causes of drug and alcohol use.

    The student will return from the Peer Leadership Programs with a lot of positive energy. Activities are being planned to channel that energy in a positive direction. Some of the activities may include the following:

  • Peer Mentoring programs
  • peer listening
  • elementary program
  • high school program
  • peer leadership class
  • R.E.A.C.H. and
  • Kids That Care Program

    Karns City Junior/Senior High School Teachers will be encouraged to recommend students for the Peer Leadership Programs. Then a staff committee will get together to come up with "the best mix" they can. The goal will be diversity. One of the cornerstones of the Peer Leadership Programs involves breaking the barriers of traditional cliques; therefore student across the spectrum will be encouraged to participate. Forty to fifty students will be selected for the senior high program.

    Teachers and community members will volunteer their services to the programs. The outings will include ice-breakers which are meant to bring the members of the group "just a little bit closer". Physical activity will be a big part of the activities, as students will be challenged to a ropes course meant to develop trust as well as team work. Other activities will focus on trust in sharing sessions, the students will learn that everyone has feelings. They will gain an appreciation for what other people are going through in their lives. The students will additionally gain an understanding of why people are the way they are.