2013-10-03 / In the News

Program at Saco school aims to teach kindness

By Ben Meiklejohn Staff Writer


Secondgraders Michael Crouse, left, and Sebastian Shields, narrate an anti-bullying performance during an assembly at Governor John Fairfield School. Artist-inresident Skip Burnette looks on. (Ben Meiklejohn photo) Secondgraders Michael Crouse, left, and Sebastian Shields, narrate an anti-bullying performance during an assembly at Governor John Fairfield School. Artist-inresident Skip Burnette looks on. (Ben Meiklejohn photo) SACO – A new educational program designed for K-8 students made its debut last week at Governor John Fairfield School, a K-2 school. Sticks and Stones, a Trashcan Lid Productions artist-in-residence program that features teachers Jeff Erwin and Skip Brunette, uses interactive performance arts as a way to counter bullying among children.

During the one-week residency, Erwin and Burnette, both of New Hampshire, spent time in each of the school’s 15 classrooms working with students to roleplay situations in which somebody is not being treated well.

“At this age, it’s about prevention and intervention … educating kids at a young age to understand what bullying is so they know how to stand up to it safely,” said Principal Maureen McMullin.

McMullin said the school has worked with Erwin before, with his Junk 2 Funk program, which teaches students how to make musical instruments out of found items. She said when Erwin told her of the new program, she thought it would be good for the school.

“They try to create something that hits on every modality,” McMullin said, adding that the way music, art, drama and science are combined make for an effective learning demonstration.

Erwin said schools started inquiring, while he was in residence for Junk 2 Funk, whether he had any anti-bullying programs.

“We try to take more of a proactive approach than reactive,” Erwin said. “It’s just as much about having kids build character, have empathy and be kind to each other.”

Erwin said the title is a play on the common saying among children that “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

“Our goal is to dispel the myth that words don’t hurt. Words do hurt,” Erwin said.

At the end of the residency, the four second-grade classrooms gave multimedia performances to the entire school in an assembly during the day, and later that night in a performance to their families. The children gave speeches, sang, danced, played instruments, painted with brushes and acted in skits – all designed to convey the message of being kind to others.

“It was a full house,” McMullin said of the evening performance.

Nancy Marston, a school librarian and vice president of the school’s parent-teacher organization, said, “These are the formative years for kids. For many of them, school is their first time away from mom and dad. (Sticks and Stones) is a good reminder of how to be a good friend and how to be good to others.”

Erwin said the event is now booked at four other schools and that the program will be modified for each school.

“It will be much different in middle schools,” said Erwin. “We’re not doing puppets and the kids will be much more involved in the process of writing.”

The event at Fairfield School was sponsored and paid for by the PTO.

“We love it, it was money well spent,” Marston said.

McMullin said the assembly fit nicely with the school’s overarching themes to “be nice, be respectful and be responsible.”

As for the program’s debut, Erwin said, “The first one went awesome. The kids had a blast.”

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