Here is a collection of activities we’ve used with schools to promote upstander behavior. (Note: As helpful as these activities are, remember short term activities that are not a part of a comprehensive bully prevention/pro-upstander efforts will have less rather than more of a helpful impact.) Please download, print and use to fit your classroom needs.

If you’d like more activities, please join the Partner School Program to receive guided activities, tips, and practical excerpts. The Upstander Alliance is also filled with a growing array of guidelines, tools and activities that support middle and high school students being Upstander leaders in your school.

Starting the Conversation with Students:

Before jumping into upstander activities, it’s important to orient your students to what an “upstander” means. Use these questions to link the definition of an “upstander” to real world examples:

  • How is upstander behavior similar and/or different from being a hero?
  • Were leaders of the civil rights movement, like Martin Luther King, Jr. upstanders? If yes, how so? Is this also true do you think of leaders from the woman’s movement, the gay rights movement?
  • When you think about the past (e.g. World War II or our Civil War or any other difficult periods in history) that were the upstanders? What helped or supported their being upstanders rather than passive bystanders?

How Do We Want Our Class to Be?

Many teachers begin the year developing rules and norms for the classroom. One of the most commonly voiced student needs is the need to feel safe (another is the need to have fun). This activity is designed to help you work with students to build a shared understanding of how the class should be and orient them to upstander behavior in a way that’s fun, easy and participatory.

Shifting Gears

The purposes of this activity are to help you focus first on “where you are right now” and then “where you want/need to be” in order to participate as fully as possible in today’s session. Make notes as you work through the process.

It Was Hard and I Did it Anyway

This activity was originally created by a teacher who wanted to help students become aware of their struggles and successes in school and to develop more appreciation and empathy for their peers. It is also something that we can use to underscore that being an upstander is not always easy, but always important.

Passive Bystander Behavior

This workshop is based on the belief that most of us contribute to—inadvertently—bullying and passive bystander behavior in some, often subtle, ways. We don’t identify ourselves as bullies or passive bystanders. Most people don’t. The goal of this exercise is to (a) increase awareness of our own actions, (b) increase awareness of our effect on others, and (c) make a commitment to a next step towards addressing passive bystander behavior.

NSCC’s Best Practices for Creating School-Wide Upstander Efforts

Use these steps to kickstart your own school-wide effort. Make necessary adjustments to fit your own school’s unique strengths and challenges.