What a Small Cube Can Do
An innovative educational program offers a solution to anger and bullying
By Maria Dalgarno and Tom Sherrard
At a recent meeting of the new Humanity Education Group in Toronto, Canada, a group of educators explored innovative ways to combat the problem of anger and bullying in schools today. The group was made up of university professors, teachers, psychologists, social workers, mothers and other educators. They were concerned with the rise in tensions among students and the ways to deal with this escalating problem in North America. Family members, social workers and psychologists all agreed that the source of these issues is the breakdown of family life. In Canada, where the divorce rate is very high, the societal fallout is felt especially by children and youth. Educators, the police and society in general are struggling to find answers for the “inner anger, tension, frustration, lack of security, loneliness and unfortunate neglect that these young people experience.” Many programs have been put in place by those involved in the educational system but one in particular that has had particular success is the Cube of Love.
The “Cube” comes from the Art of Loving program initiated by the Focolare Movement to help children put the Gospel’s message of love into practice. Each face of the cube has a brief message that focuses the child’s efforts on caring for others: I’m the first to love; I love everyone; I love Jesus in the other; I share the other’s joy or hurt; I love my enemy; we love one another. When used in school, a single classroom or the entire school rolls the cube daily to choose the phrase to be lived. At the end of the school day, students share their “good news” stories over the loudspeaker system.
Three years ago, the Toronto Catholic District School Board dedicated a week to raising awareness and finding solutions to situations of violence and conflict in their schools (see Living City, Nov. 2004). One school, St. Jerome, used the Cube of Love and found “a definite ‘ripple effect.’” According to one of the teachers: “The children bring this idea home and often they are the ones who help bring peace into their family and neighborhoods. In some families, parents are now rolling the cube with their children in the morning.”
Several described their school’s experience with the Cube of Love and the impact it has had on individual students, schools and whole school districts. A young student who is facing many challenges in her life said that she has started to roll the cube every morning, and for nine consecutive days the same phrase came up, “I love my enemy.” She remembered a teacher at school with whom she had difficulty and at one time lost her temper. The student felt he was her “enemy” and after rolling the cube one morning, she decided to go and apologize to him. She confided that she felt free after this, and the teacher was struck by her act of love and humility.
John Wells, a teacher in London, Ontario, uses the Cube regularly in his classroom and said: “It works little miracles.” One of his students shared: “This morning I rolled ‘I love everyone’ on the Cube of Love. Just as I finished, it was time to catch the bus. We were late and my sister was making me very nervous. I was going to get mad at her; then I remembered the ‘cube.’” Then Kaitlyn, another student, shared: “When I first rolled the Cube of Love it landed on ‘I share the other’s hurt or joy.’ Later that day I found out that a friend’s godmother had a baby that was in full health. I shared this joy with this special friend.” Meghan wrote: “Last night I rolled ‘I’m the first to love.’ My brother was crying because he fell and cut himself. So before he even asked, I ran upstairs, took a bandaid from the cupboard, ran back downstairs and gave it to him. He said, ‘Thank you.’”
John visited elementary classes in his city with his 8-year-old granddaughter. “We shared the concept of living out the various phrases written on the Cube of Love and our ‘good news stories’ from rolling the Cube. We asked the students we met to roll their Cubes every day and share their ‘good news stories’ with us when we returned. We went back after two weeks and heard some amazing stories.” One of the teachers remarked to him: “You don’t realize the impact your Cubes of Love have made on our school.”
Teachers at St. Jerome’s Catholic elementary school in Toronto have been using the Cube of Love for four years now. Angela Di Prospero, one of the teachers using the Cube, said: “ The teacher needs to be the protagonist in starting the program. Children cannot do it without the teacher taking an active part. In my room, I have various Cubes. One of the students will pick one up in the morning and throw it. We all then focus on living that phrase during our study and play time. I can truly say firsthand, it really has made a difference.”
Their school principal has also embraced the idea and it has been gaining popularity throughout the Catholic educational system in Toronto and beyond. St. Jerome’s school has even sent the Cube with a video explanation to a school in Nunavut in the Artic where they continue to use it.
Dr. John Chan, a school psychologist, and Rosemarie Johnson, social worker of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, developed a whole-school violence prevention project at St. Thomas More Elementary. Dr. Chan reported: “The aim of the I-C.A.R.E. program (to be Considerate, Accepting, Reaching-out to others, and Empathetic) is to achieve a positive shift towards pro-social behavior, towards creating a culture of caring and kindness, towards the building of a peace-loving community.
The project incorporates the internationally acclaimed Cube of Love as an enjoyable and concrete approach to help students live the Gospel values and apply them in resolving conflict and violence. The
Cube has also been successfully pioneered in other TCDSB schools. Initial data analysis by their Research Department has provided independent, supportive evidence that bullying has decreased over the short term—under six months—since the program has been implemented.”
A Toronto police officer uses the Cube in his regular visits to 22 Catholic and public schools where he talks about the “anti-bullying program.” One of his students, an 11-year-old, said: “When I rolled the cube one morning, I got ‘I love my enemy.’ When I went to school and saw the girl who had been unkind to me, I walked right up to her and smiled. I felt all lit up inside.”
So far, the Cube of Love project has been presented to over 30 schools, groups, churches and institutions in different parts of Canada where it has reached over 4,000 persons. The New Humanity Educational Group is planning new ways to spread its use. The hope is that this program, which has proved to be a dynamic tool for anti-bullying, will not only be used locally, but nationally. Who would have imagined that such a little Cube of Love would have such far-reaching results and contribute to the building of a more united and peaceful world?