The Children's Institute Blog

Meet The Kids on The Block

Posted: Mar 06, 2018 by The Children's Institute

School counselors outside Pittsburgh encountered some issues before winter break when a student, who has Down syndrome, was being bullied by her peers.

“We found that a lot of it was coming from a place of not understanding, of treating someone badly because they’re different,” said Julia Taylor, counselor at Gill Hall and McClellan elementary schools in the West Jefferson Hills school district.

Enter Kids on the Block.

Julia reached out to Judy Parker, who heads the donor-backed Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh program with Bruce Adamson, and explained the situation. Judy and Bruce were at the school, performing with puppets in front of classes of kids, within weeks.

“They did several different, very targeted shows – they were able to hone in on the grade level,” Julia said. “It was a nice shared experience that led to conversation about bullying in the classroom. It led to better understanding.”

Judy and Bruce’s approach is simple: they lead a puppet show where they introduce characters with disabilities and show that, despite differences, people have lots in common.

Judy says there are nine different types of skits they’ve been doing since 1991 with school children in a 60- to 70-mile radius of Greensburg, their home-base. The Kids on the Block interactive puppetry program reached 13,196 children in grades K through 5 in 38 Western Pennsylvania schools last school year.

“I think the important message is the more kids understand the differences, the disabilities, the more they understand the person and feel comfortable interacting with them,” Judy said. “They don’t feel they have to avoid them or stay away from them. The more understanding, the more acceptance.”

The Kids on the Block program, which is used across the nation, “uses the non-threatening medium of puppetry to introduce a number of sensitive topics to children in the classroom,” according to a Kids on the Block team in Chattanooga, Tenn. “Because Kids on the Block uses puppets, this allows for a unique and effective brand of communication, especially since children are often hesitant to interact freely with adults.”

For public schools, the assembly is typically free, as long as the funding is available. The Pennsylvania Department of Education has approved this program, and the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) provides the funding.

For private schools, the fee for The Kids on the Block assembly is $240 plus mileage for one program and $225 for each additional program on the same day. These fees are used to maintain the quality of the program-- no profit is made for The Children's Institute.

For more information, to schedule an appearance or to find out what funding might be available for your school, call 412.420.2344.

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