Lower Schoolers Learn to Be Upstanders

Princeton Day School is committed to working actively to create an equitable, inclusive community, and the recent rise across the country in anti-Asian sentiment and violence towards the Asian community has added even more urgency to the School's ongoing efforts to combat hate.

Recently, the Lower School focused on the role of "upstanders." LS Psychologist Ashleigh Young facilitated age-appropriate lessons for Kindergarten through Fourth Grade to explore what it means to be an upstander, meaning someone who says something or does something when another person isn't being treated with respect.

"Our goal was to teach students about what they can do to feel safe as well as helping others to feel safe within their community, based on the shared value that all people should be respected and cared about," Dr. Young explained. "We explored the idea of global citizenship and the importance of caring about things that are happening outside of your community, and went further to address the oppositional challenges and feelings of disempowerment that kids tend to experience when thinking of a scary, outside world," she added.

To combat hate, it is important for everyone to understand and recognize different forms of aggression and meanness, particularly overt and covert acts of aggression. In the Lower School, conversations centered on what aggression and meanness can look like."We discussed what overt and covert acts of aggression can look like in classrooms, around campus and in our neighborhoods," Dr. Young shared.

"The next step was differentiating being an upstander versus a bystander, emphasizing what you can do to be active rather than passive," she continued. Exercises and readings about how to be an upstander helped lower schoolers visualize acts of upstanding and appreciate how these acts can strengthen community. Discussions included techniques for upstanding, potential barriers that one may face and understanding why people sometimes do not do anything to help. 

"First and foremost, we wanted to help our Lower School students to be able to recognize acts of aggression, especially covert ones, because recognition is essential in order to be able to address and dismantle these types of issues," Mrs. Young said.

"Beyond recognition, we presented the children with tools and exercises to continue developing as upstanders as they progress through school here at PDS and grow as people in their personal community," she concluded.

Photo: Third graders in the Dina Bray Reading Garden on a recent spring day

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