HEAR: Helping Educators use Art to Reduce Bullying aims to provide fun arts-based activities that help us think and talk about bullying prevention.
Where did HEAR come from?
HEAR is a collaboration between the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center, College of Public Health, and The Working Group Theater.
We initially started with the development of a play called “Out of Bounds,” which tells the story of a cyberbullying event and promotes themes of forgiveness, friendship, identity and labels. The play was developed for student audiences in elementary, junior, and high schools by The Working Group Theater to spark conversation about bullying.
Since viewing a play is unlikely to support behavior change on its own, the team developed the HEAR program to accompany the play.
Why an arts-based approach?
We chose this approach based on neurological research that helps us understand how brains work at different ages. Adolescent and teenage brains have a very active emotional center. Hormonal rushes are frequent and can overwhelm brain activity, which explains the characteristic mood swings and difficulty concentrating common among teenagers.
During this time, the intellectual area of the brain is also developing at a very fast pace, enabling them to be increasingly sophisticated in deduction, logic and reasoning. As these two brain areas reach maturity, they also increase in their connectivity, allowing mature decision-making to begin. However, this process takes time and practice, and these brain areas are not fully mature until teenagers reach their early 20’s.
Knowledge of brain development may help explain why evaluations of available programs to reduce bullying behavior and its consequences have shown modest success, at best. Current bullying prevention programs, although chock full of good information, have taken a traditionally academic approach. They provide information in a traditional classroom setting with the theory that understanding bullying behavior and how to prevent it will lead to behavior change.
Arts-based programs, however, can appeal more to the emotional reactions to bullying, and we hope that focusing on the emotional response to bullying will help reduce bullying behavior.
Who is the toolkit for?
The toolkit is for anyone who wants to try some new bullying prevention activities. Schools, youth groups, after school programs, and clubs are some of the places we think the activities can be used. We have developed a number of activities for different age groups, but any activity can be easily modified for all ages.