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EMSB SCHOOLS MAKE FRIENDS WITH ZIPPY: Promoting mental health and well being

Repercussion Theatre


Teachers and Principal Ida Pisano from Dante School in St. Leonard after a recent training session introducing them to Zippy's Friends.

MONTREAL, SEPTEMBER 24, 2012 – The English Montreal School Board has become the first English school board in Montreal to implement Zippy’s Friends: a program designed to promote the mental health and well being of young children.

With the support and guidance of Daphna Leibovici, Violence Prevention Consultant at the EMSB and Lorraine Millette, the coordinator of Promotion and Primary Prevention Programs from the Université du Québec à Montréal, EMSB schools have begun to incorporate Zippy’s Friends on an individual basis this year since being introduced to it last spring.

To date, Dante, Pierre de Coubertin and General Vanier Elementary Schools in St. Leonard as well as Hampstead and Westmount Park Elementary Schools have begun to incorporate the program. Once adopting the program, classroom teachers receive specialized training in order to ensure the core values of the program are passed onto the students.

According to Leibovici, this universal prevention program is promising because it is research and evidence based. Moreover, since it is delivered by teachers, it is sustainable. Teachers have the opportunity to reinforce the program's core values and lessons to young students in their everyday interactions with them.

The program is designed to aid children between six and seven years old to learn better ways to cope with everyday problems. Zippy’s Friends is based on the premise that if children can develop a better repertoire of coping mechanisms early in life, they will be less likely to develop serious problems later on and if they do experience problems, they will be more likely to seek and use help.

Over the course of 24 weekly sessions, teachers read stories that deal with a group of children and their pet, Zippy. In each session, which lasts approximately 45 minutes, following the story, the students participate in group activities such as drawing, playing games or a discussion. The goal of these activities is to help children explore and understand their feelings and behaviour and learn new ways to react to difficult situations, encouraging children to explore possibilities and think for themselves.

The stories deal with a range of experiences faced by young children and ways of solving problems including: positive and negative feelings, communication skills, making and breaking relationships, conflict resolution, dealing with change and loss and starting anew. The program helps children learn how to better adapt to everyday problems, to identify their feelings and to talk about and explore different ways to handle difficult situations and negative feelings. Additionally, Zippy’s Friends goes beyond providing solutions to problems, but encourages students to give and receive help as well.

Conceived in the United Kingdom, a pilot program of Zippy’s Friends was first tested in Denmark. Since the fall of 2004, 60 classes in Quebec and close to 1000 children have been through the program. Around the world, more than 500,000 children have completed Zippy’s Friends.

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Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213
E-mail: mcohen@emsb.qc.ca