Christopher O'Neil Peer Education Program

Garrison Forest School

300 Garrison Forest Road

Baltimore, MD 21117


Elena Michelson

Garrison Forest Page

Garrison Forest Program Summary Page

Garrison Forest Training Page

Garrison Forest Lesson Plans Page

Member Schools Page


Program Information

The GFS Peer Education program began in the 2001-2002 school year. GFS has for many years had a strong Decision Making curriculum. Counselors in Middle and Upper Schools meet with students in all grade levels to talk about life choices. However, we are well aware that students share information and hear information differently when conversing with peers.

Peer Educators are 10th and 11th graders. They are “tapped” by the faculty advisors to the program. We do not seek application to the program, partially because rejection from the program is based largely on personality characteristics, and it seems counter to the culture of GFS to do this. When students “graduate” from the Peer Ed program in their senior year, they become senior “Peer Mentors.” The Peer Mentors do the majority of the teaching at our annual retreat, during which the majority of our training for Peer Educators take place.

For the first few years we taught at the 6th grade level. Topics included cliques, body image, stress management, and the effect media has on our views of alcohol and tobacco. In the 2004-2005 school year, we decided to shift our focus to the 8th grade. We had begun to hear about more risk-taking behaviors shifting into the middle school, and realized that we needed to address these issues head-on.

The lesson plans we share in the web page are not truly lesson plans. They are skeletons for discussions on three topics: Dangerous and Risky Behavior, Alcohol and other Drugs, and Sex and Relationships. Our first lesson is low key; 8th grade girls will be given the chance to ask questions about life in the Upper School. This session is meant to help students build rapport with each other and to open the door for later, more serious conversations.

This year, the Peer Mentors also have begun to teach in the 9th grade. They go into pre-existing Decision Making classes which are usually taught by the school counselors. Topics the Peer Mentors can discuss with the 9th grade can range from school work and pressure to drinking to college applications to parent and family pressure.