Students from across Clark County are learning conflict management skills and anti-bullying techniques at the Springfield Peace Center’s 28th annual Peace Camp this week.
With a recent rash of violence in Springfield, the camp is an important part of teaching students to understand and respect differences, Director Nanci Keller said.
“We do believe that the younger you can teach the children, the better off you are,” Keller said.
The free camp, held at Perrin Woods Elementary School, is for students from pre-school to sixth grade. This year’s theme is “Magnify Peace.” The camp has 225 students this year.
Themes such as building self-esteem, understanding and respecting differences and being a peacemaker are taught through cooperative games, art projects, dance and guest speakers. Mascots such as the I Care Cat, Bully Bear and Buddy Bear are teaching children how to handle bullying.
Several middle school and high school students also serve as mediators at Peace Camp.
“I really like that I can help the children and the teachers,” said mediator Denecia Young, a 16-year-old junior at Kenton Ridge High School. “The students are really open to everybody they’re with. They’re really nice to each other and they know how to share. We’ve been working on teamwork all week.”
The camp is teaching Mackenzie Edgington, 11, a sixth-grader at Lincoln Elementary School, how to prevent fighting back against bullying and said she hopes to be a mediator next year.
“It’s helping me calm down my anger (against bullies),” she said.
The camp has more than 140 volunteers from around the county, Keller said. They’re in need of donations to keep the camp going well into the future.
“We really do need funding to keep this going,” she said. “We have a lot of people working very hard and giving up their vacation to teach the children to handle anger and stop bullies.”
Parents fill out evaluations after the camp and often suggest the camp should be mandatory for all school children, Keller said.
“With all the violence in the town and around the country, it’s needed more than ever,” she said.
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