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Big puppets bring big message to Greenbrier

May 11, 2009|By JANET HEIM

BOONSBORO - The puppets were as big as some of the students and the message was a big one, as well.

As the audience at Greenbrier Elementary School was treated to a Kids on the Block puppet show, the students were all ears.

Kids on the Block is a national program that teaches children about safety and health issues through scripted puppet shows. Greenbrier students saw the "Keeping Kids Safe and Healthy" program, which was put on by the Mental Health Association of Frederick County.

The show focused on three issues - the negative effects of cigarette smoking and chewing tobacco; the danger of taking illegal drugs and medicine intended for others; and the importance of children and their parents/caregivers having an emergency plan for safety.

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"We picked this program because it ties in with the guidance curriculum on personal safety," said school guidance counselor Alison Cannon.

Instead of small hand-held puppets with the puppeteers hidden from view, this puppet show featured an ancient Japanese style of puppetry called Bunraku, where puppets 3 to 4 feet tall are handled by puppeteers dressed in black, to act as a shadow or silhouette.

Puppets with disabilities are featured, as well as nondisabled ones.

After each of the topics were presented, students were given an opportunity to ask questions. They asked about secondhand smoke, steroids, the difference between good and bad medicine, and whether smokers' lungs turn black.

"Remember, our bodies are special and we should treat them special, too," one of the puppets told the audience.

Puppeteer Leesa Ruderman said the program is available for all public elementary schools in Frederick County, Md., and that the troupe does some shows in Washington County, too. The puppeteers also do shows on bullying, child-abuse prevention and obesity.

The "Keeping Kids Safe and Healthy" program is offered free of charge thanks to a grant from the Cigarette Restitution Fund and Volunteer Frederick, but donations are welcome.

For more information, go to www.kotb.com or call the Mental Health Association of Frederick County at 301-663-0011, ext. 162.

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