On musical cue, a pink tide washed over the Pine Centre Mall's centre court Wednesday.
Decked out in pink T-shirts, leggings, jackets, toques, and even hair, scores of students sprang from hiding positions in discrete hallways and flooded the open area. The quickly aligned themselves and danced to the popular comedy song What Does The Fox Say while some waved pink flags, anti-bullying placards and signs, urging people to celebrate each other's differences.
About 100 elementary-aged students took part from five schools in the district. They were supported by youth leaders from PGSS, several aboriginal education workers, and other school district staff, in collaboration with Pine Centre Mall.
With all the supporters there to cheer them on, plus the regular mall patrons, a few hundred more people were witness to the three-minute anti-bullying, pro-inclusion demonstration.
"Aw, I wanted to join them," said one random grandmotherly shopper when the quick flash mob was finished.
"This is our start but we plan to build on this locally, and we will put out the challenge to all the school districts of B.C. for 2015, and we will also send the message out nationally in the years to come," said Shelly Niemi, manager of the School District 57 Aboriginal Education Department. "To be honest I was not expecting to see so many people, and I wasn't expecting to see the mall staff dressed up in pink and personally taking part in this. It just shows what it could become."
Niemi credits one of the district's school-based aboriginal education workers, Tessa Fraser, with forming the flash mob plan and co-ordinating all the schools. Fraser said it worked in attracting a burst of attention to the concept of peer support and reducing the instances of bullying in schools, but it did more for the kids involved.
"As these kids get to have more of these experiences, they gain confidence in themselves and trust in each other. They express themselves and they develop relationships," Fraser said. "I hope there is a ripple effect that comes from inside the kids - that intense feeling because it was successful."
Ten-year-old Ashton Parisian was one of the kids still beaming long after the choreography ended. He is of Metis descent, a combination of European and First Nations, which he considers "very cool." He is learning to play native drum, how to hunt, fish and trap, and he loves showing these things to all the kids at Pinewood school.
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