A unique program that seeks to teach students anti bullying tactics through the use of acrobatics and parkour has made its way into schools across NSW – and soon Backflips Against Bullying will expand into other states too.
The Backflips Against Bullying incursions are based on the anti-bullying curriculum developed by the New South Wales Board of Education, as well as research from leading psychologists in the field.
Developed by Samwise Holmes and Cynthia Guthrie, who were both victims of bullying, Backflips Against Bullying has performed over 150 school shows in 2019 throughout NSW. The program is now taking bookings for Victoria (beginning in Term 2, 2020) and Queensland (for Term 4, 2020).
Within two years, its founders hope to bring the mobile program Australia-wide.
Backflips Against Bullying incursions offers three shows:
- Show 1 is devoted to schoolyard bullying in primary schools.
- Show 2 concerns cyberbullying in primary schools.
- Show 3 targets high school harassment, where more severe bullying usually escalates, and will be launched in January 2020.
Mr Holmes experienced severe bullying during his schooling. He said he often felt isolated from other students, which he attributes largely to having Asperger’s Syndrome, and was physically beaten, even having his head flushed in a toilet.
For Ms Guthrie, years of bullying fuelled her long-lasting anxiety and depression, and resulted in her having to transfer to an interstate school, which is where the pair met.
The schoolyard bullying they experienced has become a driving force behind Backflips Against Bullying.
“Schools spend a lot of time developing amazing content, but sometimes the delivery misses the mark and students can lose interest. And when it comes to issues like bullying and harassment, often the students who need to hear it the most are the hardest to engage,” Mr Holmes said.
“I always had difficulty communicating with people, so making friends was hard for me at school. Other students would victimise me because of this, and after years of having no self-worth and such a poor self-image, I even ended up taking that out on other vulnerable students and acting out in class just to make myself feel better.”
According to Mr Holmes and Ms Guthrie, it’s their firsthand experience enables them to be so open and honest with students during their performances.
“I struggled to get out of bed in the morning, to eat, to sleep, and even to be around people. I still struggle with social anxiety to this day – but back then, I felt worthless and powerless. I met Sam on my first day at this new school, and my life perspective changed. Since then we’ve begun this mission to help others who have gone through things like we did. We want them to know that they’re not alone,” Ms Guthrie said.
Mr Holmes added that they have been blown away by the response the program has had so far. “School principals have confidence in the content we’re teaching and they love our unique approach. We’ve locked in 40 new schools in the last month alone. Schools are looking for alternatives to the outdated puppet shows and plays that have been previously offered. The kids really engage with our acrobatic team, because we earn their admiration first.”
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