Program Coordinator: Mary Smith
Mission: The Kids on the Block (KOB) program seeks to educate children about physical and sexual abuse, bullying, and healthy eating and childhood obesity.
Program: The Northwest Georgia KOB puppeteers present scripts about physical and sexual abuse annually to elementary school children in Whitfield County, Murray County and Dalton Public Schools. Performances are tailored to the needs of each school system. In Whitfield County, 2nd and 3rd graders see performances on child abuse prevention. In Murray County all 3rd graders see the child abuse prevention shows and the 4th graders see the bullying script. Dalton Public Schools second and third graders see shows on child abuse. A few years ago, through a partnership with the Food Service Department, scripts on healthy eating and childhood obesity were added in the 4th grade.
Through the use of puppetry the children learn to recognize abusive behavior. Prevention of abuse is the primary message and the “Kids” help the children to better understand ways in which children can be abused. After the show, there is an opportunity for the children to ask questions of the puppets, as well as a time for the children to write letters to the puppets, when they have returned to the classrooms. The letters and the children’s questions and comments sometimes disclose unsafe situations. School social workers and counselors observe the children during the shows, read the letters and then talk individually with children who wrote letters which raised concerns. When necessary, referrals are made to the Department of Family and Children Services. The Kids on the Block puppets have proven to be valuable, not only as an educational tool, but also as a means to identify children in abusive situations who might otherwise remain unknown. Each year between 6,000 and 7,000 elementary school children in Dalton, Murray and Whitfield County Schools are reached with “Hotline” and “Between Friends.” Materials and information about abuse are provided for teachers and students. Both Personal Safety scripts are presented for Camp AIM participants each year, as well.
An additional program on Bullies and School Safety is available to all three school systems, and for the past few years all fourth graders in Murray County have seen the shows on bullying. Dalton and Whitfield are working on their bullying curriculum before adding the scripts on a regular basis. Because bullying is a huge issue among children, information must be provided to them so that they can learn to find more appropriate ways to deal with such situations. Questions about bullies often are asked during personal safety performances, thus leading to the need for providing the bullying scripts. The Bullying script was also presented for Murray and Whitfield County Pinwheels for Prevention in April of last year.
Healthy Eating and Childhood Obesity
For the past few years the Northwest Georgia Kids on the Block program has partnered with the Dalton Public Schools Food Service Department to provide shows on Healthy Eating and Childhood Obesity. All DPS fourth graders saw performances to encourage healthy eating and exercise. A performance was also provided for Ross Woods last year, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. KOB volunteers provided enthusiastic performances with this new endeavor, and were well received. Last year Dalton Public Schools received a state level USDA award for the Kids on the Block programs on Healthy Eating and Childhood Obesity. The Family Support Council and the KOB Troupe was recognized at a DPS Board Meeting.
Program Funding: KOB currently receives funding from the United Way of Northwest Georgia and local fundraisers. Staff includes one paid staff member and about 10 volunteer puppeteers. Three of the six volunteers are employees of Shaw Industries, and one is an employee of J & J. Five are retired and continuing to contribute in the community. The others vary in responsibilities. One of the volunteers has participated in KOB for over 15 years and another over 10 years. Three others have participated over five years.
The curriculum is an educational tool designed to:
Collaboration: The Kids on the Block program collaborates with Whitfield County Schools, Dalton Public Schools, and Murray County Schools to schedule performances.
If disclosures are made, referrals are made to the Department of Family and Children Services. The Kids on the Block program actively participates in the community collaborative efforts in both Whitfield and Murray Counties, in an effort to address identified community concerns. The Northwest Georgia Kids on the Block Troupe has training opportunities and affiliations both regionally and nationally.
From a counselor at Cedar Ridge Elementary School:
"I want to say thank you to you, the puppeteers, and everyone at the Family Support Council that make this happen. I learned so much about my kids from the KOB program. I followed up on many letters that indicated concern. Many of them had already been reported, but it opened the door for me and the child to be able to build a relationship and talk about some of the things that had happened in their life. I noticed one case that had been prosecuted and it was first reported from a previous Kids On the Block presentation. Please express my appreciation to everyone involved in providing this wonderful program for our children”
Teresa Brown, School Counselor
Meet The Kids on the Block
Physical and Sexual Abuse
Joanne Spinoza is a 14-year-old who was sexually abused by her mom's boyfriend when she was 10. A social worker helps Joanne and her mom talk about the abuse and Joanne now realizes that it wasn't her fault.
Stephen is 10 years old and has been physically abused by his mom. He knew something was wrong because when other kids got punished, they got grounded...he got a black eye. Now with group therapy, his family is being helped.
Nam Nguyen – Nam is 11 years old and one of Stephen's best friends. He is confused about abuse, but through his sensitive and sometimes humorous interactions with Stephen and Joanne he helps the audience learn what abuse is and is not.
Eddy Franklin - Eddy is 10 years old and lives with his mother, father and older brother, who has autism. Eddy is a mature and thoughtful child who has few close friends at his school, but recently he has begun having problems at school with a boy who has been taunting him, pushing him around, taking his lunch money and waiting for him after school. Eddy has been very upset, has not talked with anyone about it and is ashamed and embarrassed believing that no one can help him. Through Eddy, children learn that it’s common for the target of a bully to feel afraid, confused, and embarrassed about the victimization.
Claire Sanchez - Claire is 14 and knows Eddy from the youth center where she volunteers. When Eddy finally tells Claire what has been going on at school, she is very concerned about the situation. Through Claire, audiences learn about social bullying. In the KOB program on Bullies and School Safety, she serves as a confidante to Eddy and offers him advice based on the research she has conducted about the subject. She serves as a mentor to Eddy and Melody as they work on a school safety project.
Melody James - Melody is 11 years old and lives with her dad, mom and three older brothers and one younger brother. Melody is sensitive to the feelings of her peers. When her friends are facing challenges, she is quick to get involved and aid in resolving problems.
Healthy Eating and Childhood Obesity
Brenda Dubrowski -Brenda is a well-adjusted and lively young lady who sometimes lets her enthusiasm get the best of her. She loves to be the center of attention and enjoys singing (even if it isn't on key). Brenda appears in the KOB programs on asthma, cerebral palsy, child of divorced parents, children's mental health, combating childhood obesity, coping with crisis, deafness, down syndrome, dwarfism, gifted & talented, healthy eating, learning disabilities, pediatric hospice, safety and visual impairment.
Jason Robinson - Like many children his age, Jason is going through adolescent changes and sometimes experiences confusion. He is learning how to make positive choices about many of the challenging situations that face young people, including negative peer pressure and healthy eating and exercise habits. Although he comes from a supportive home environment, like many young boys, Jason still struggle with some common misconceptions about manhood, like the notion that being a man means being "tough." Jason feels lucky to have a number of role models to help him through some of life's struggles, including his father and John Sanchez, a clerk at the local movie rental outlet.