How We Do It
A three hour Edge school program is partitioned into four main sections:
IntroductionStudents and staff gather together in the school gym. The lead facilitator explains the purpose of an Edge workshop, introduces the adult facilitators and staff to the students, and stresses the importance of confidentiality and honesty in the process. All participants will be honored as equals throughout the entire program.
Then, an up-beat dance tune is played to begin the workshop with some silly but fun dance moves, gestures, and vocalizing. The main facilitator leads by example, playfully prodding participants to shed inhibitions, embarrassment, and shyness. Full participation in the simple yet spirited movements is encouraged in order to build camaraderie, put everyone at ease, and get all present laughing, engaged, and enthusiastic about continuing the process.
Facilitated Break-out Circle ExercisesStudents count off randomly so as to prevent the usual social cliques from forming. Instead, small, same-gender groups of students are joined together who might not normally gather together. An adult volunteer facilitator of the same gender is then assigned to each new group and the groups spread out to different locations in order to maintain group privacy and confidentiality.
Once settled in, the adult facilitator initiates group conversation, spurring participation by asking each member a question from a prepared list. The purpose of the questions is to raise student awareness of each person’s unique differences, as well as our commonalities, through compassionate listening skills. In asking questions of their peers, and also in answering questions from their peers, new bridges of understanding and communication open up among students who might normally not even speak to each other. The process helps break down the alienating in-group, out-group biases so common in today’s schools.
Crossing The Line ExerciseThis is the crowning point of the workshop. It consists of another series of questions, but this time directed towards the entire mixed-gender group, which has reassembled back on the main floor of the gym in a single line along one side of the room. The lead facilitator moves to the front of the entire group and begins the process. If the answer to a specific question applies to an individual participant, or to someone he or she knows, then that person walks over to a blue line of tape placed about 12 feet in front of the group, turns around, and, without speaking, faces those who did not move.
What is witnessed, heard and felt, are the real-life situations that keep us separated, which, ironically, now begin to reveal what we all really have in common. This protocol allows participants to meet and ponder human issues such as ageism, prejudice, the many forms of abuse, self-loathing, bullying, body image anxiety, homelessness, gangs, suicide, and much more. Questions are articulated in a way that provides for a safe environment that allows honest expression without singling anyone out.
The Gold Questions that follow highlight student choices wherein an individual may reflect on instances when they stepped up to support a friend, family member, other person in the community, or even a stranger. Each question prompts participants to reflect silently on the goodness of their actions on behalf of another; a time when they offered respect, kindness and assistance. Students experience the pride and strength of their own character and begin to appreciate the power of taking positive action for others. Isolation then transforms into cohesion as they “cross the line”. Each witnesses how their classmates also helped, intervened, or reached out to another.
The Horseshoe Closing ExerciseThe “Horseshoe” is a final opportunity for students and staff to gather together and reflect on their individual workshop experience and perhaps share that experience with the group; to begin the process of creating a culture of support and cooperation within their school community. Many students have silently delved into their emotions during the workshop and now have an opportunity to express out loud how the experience affected them, what they learned. Spontaneous sharing often occurs—among individuals, and to the group. Apologies, declarations of intent to change behavior, and requests for renewed friendship are common themes during this process. The facilitator carefully guides the conversation to this end and thus ends the program on an emotionally uplifting note.
Follow-up WorkshopAnother integral part of the training is a follow-up workshop offered after completion of the first morning’s program. At the school’s invitation, we are prepared to return—our recommendation is within a two-week period—for a two-hour follow-up session with the students. We offer questions that challenge the students to step into a leadership role in their school community, utilizing the skills of awareness and self-empowerment that they acquired in the original workshop.
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