Last week, primary students at Nootka Elementary were sworn in as Special Constables for the WITS program at a special badge pinning ceremony. Following the example of WITSUP the Walrus, the mascot and Special Constable for the WITS program, the students promised to use their "WITS" and help out other students in the school.
This is the first year that Nootka Elementary has instituted the WITS program, a bullying and peer victimization prevention program developed by the Victoria School district and school liason officers in conjunction with the University of Victoria's Centre for Youth and Society. Funded by the Rock Solid Foundation, the program has been running successfully in the Victoria School District and individual school throughout B.C. for over ten years.
"The WITS program has given the students, teachers and support staff common language with which to discuss conflict and bullying, both in class and on the playground," says Diane Martinson, vice principal at Nootka and a WITS pogram coordinator. "Teachers, support staff and supervision aides are using the program and common language with the students in classes and on the playground. The students are excited to share the song, secret handshake, password and stories connected to the program, all which reinforce the "Using your WITS" message."
Created by educators for educators the literature-based program teaches Primary students skills from which to make safe and positive choices when faced with peer conflict. The WITS acronym stands for "Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out, and Seek help" - an easy mantra for students to remember the skills taught in the program. The program also brings together emergency service professionals, teachers, parents and older students and provides resources for responding effectively when children ask for help.
Martinson says older students, in the role of peer helpers, assist the primary students outside at recess and lunch, and it has provided another avenue for connecting the three programs in the school.
She says next year, the school is looking at extending the program into the intermediate grades by adding on the WITS LEADS program, which extends the concepts, focuses on social and cyber bullying and helps to develop leadership skills in the older students.
More information on the program can be found at www.witsprogram.ca