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NMSU Extension agents teach social behaviors in Valencia County schools

VALENCIA COUNTY ? It takes a village to raise a child, especially when helping youth learn socially acceptable behaviors.

Two women watching girl place thumb on paper
Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service 4-H agent Anne-Marie Wilson, left, and Vera Gibson watch as St. Mary?s Catholic School student Rachel Carter places her fingerprint on a class tree that demonstrates that classmates are each unique. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)
Boy shaking hand of lady
Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service home economist Laura Bittner shakes hands with a Valencia Elementary School third grade student while demonstrating the proper manners when greeting someone. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

New Mexico State University?s Cooperative Extension Service faculty in Valencia County is contributing to that effort by teaching a variety of personal behavior programs in the Los Lunas, Peralta and Belen schools.

This spring, the programs helped remind Dennis Chavez Elementary School kindergarteners and Valencia Elementary School third-grade students to practice good manners and explained to third- through eighth-grade students at St. Mary?s Catholic School in Belen what bullying means. Third-graders at Peralta Elementary School learned how to apply ?Cowboy Ethics? in their lives.

?All of these programs deal with how the children behave at school and at home,? said Laura Bittner, Valencia County Extension county director. ?When they constantly hear reminders and corrections from their parent and teachers, they may or may not listen. But when another adult confirms what they have heard before, the child may be more inclined to take it seriously.?

The NMSU Extension agents were asked by each school, either the principal or the classroom teachers, to bring their programs to their students.

Bittner created the ?Monster Manners? program geared for kindergarten through third-graders after a teacher?s request for additional programs for her students. She has taught it to kindergarten classes at Dennis Chavez Elementary School in Belen, as well.

?The kids really respond well to stories, so I spent time looking for children?s books on manners,? Bittner said. ?I like the idea of monsters, because a lot of times we hear the term being used to describe people as acting like monsters. We don?t necessarily associate monsters with having manners. So the kids relate to it. They recognize that sometimes they too can forget their manners.?

Extension 4-H agents Anne-Marie Wilson and Vera Gibson taught the ?Take A Stand? anti-bullying curriculum at St. Mary Catholic School in Belen.

?Kids don?t realized the impact rude remarks can have on a fellow student,? Wilson said. ?It can hurt the student?s self-esteem and often leads to suicide. Youth really need to understand what bullying is. We hope the kids are more aware of the many different ways a person can bully, so they don?t do it when they think they are only kidding.?

?I learned about this program during an Extension in-service and thought it would be great for the youth of our county,? Gibson said.

The five-session ?Take A Stand? program, which was created by the Texas AgLife Extension service at Texas A&M University, addresses conflict resolution, communication, etiquette, teamwork and cultural awareness.

Extension agent Newt McCarthy returned to Peralta Elementary School this spring to teach third-graders the ?Happy Trails? adopted from ?Ten Principles to Live By? that were established in James P. Owen?s book, ?Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West.? He taught the 12-week series to sixth-graders last year.

?We use activities and true-to-life scenarios to help youth understand the importance of characteristics such as community, honor, heart and courage,? said McCarty of the program.

?I think everyone has the internal compass of knowing right from wrong,? McCarty said. ?My goal is to provide youth with the tools and self-confidence to access that compass in making good choices and to understand their choices have an impact on their families, friends and community.?

All of the Valencia County Extension agents enjoy taking a variety of programs into schools to help supplement a teacher?s curriculum. For further information about programs, contact the Extension office at 505-565-3002.