by TaLeiza Calloway
Ashton Zabinski gave CLIMB Theatre’s recent performance at Kennedy Community School two thumbs up. The 9-year-old said he liked how the actors explained what bullying is, its different forms and how saying nothing about it when it happens is not a good idea.
CLIMB stands for Creative Learning Ideas for Mind and Body. The nonprofit theater company based in Inver Grove Heights made its debut at Kennedy Oct. 11. Actors travel across the Midwest to educate kids about certain topics through theater.
Ryan Bergman and Nicole Wells, actor-educators from the teaching division of CLIMB, performed interplays that focused on the topic of bullying at Kennedy. Students witnessed examples of bullying that included the spreading of gossip and exclusion of others. The most important message conveyed was “If you’ve ever been bullied, it’s not your fault.” The next is to tell an adult when bullying occurs.
Bergman said this is the second year the interplays have been performed. They are designed to focus on groups between 25 and 110 students with the intent to engage students in the topics addressed. In this case, it was bullying – one of the company’s more popular topics, he said.
“It’s very interactive,” Bergman said. “Shen (students) walk away we really want them to be comfortable with what their role is if they see the bullying happening or are experiencing the bullying themselves.”
Scenarios performed at Kennedy included skits where a student named Sam is often teased by his peer, Jen. Jen would tease Sam, take his comic book and even ripped it just to hurt Sam’s feelings. He was too afraid to tell her to stop in one scenario. The actors then perform a scene where Sam tells her to stop, using what they call the CALM steps. CALM stands for Cool Down, Assert Yourself, Lift your Chin and Mean it. In this version, Sam tells her, “I don’t like what you’re doing and I want you to stop.” She does.
What fourth-grade students Devyn Nelson and Anna Meemken learned from the interplays was the importance of telling an adult when they are being bullied or see it happening.
“You should tell someone if you’re being bullied,” Nelson said.
Meemken thought the plays were cool. She walked away understanding bystanders are just as guilty when it comes to bullying.
“I learned you should stand up for someone even if you’re scared,” Meemken said.
Technology and social media were not exempt from the conversation on bullying. St. Joseph resident Paige Cox was glad to see the actors address cyber-bullying in the performances. Her teacher Carol Ramler said the topic of bullying is discussed at least weekly as the class talks about it every time it comes up. Ramler said just because it’s talked about often doesn’t mean it’s a problem but means students are consistently taught about signs of bullying and what they should do if it happens to them or if they witness it.
For Nicole Wells, the best part of her job is hearing students are using what they learn from the plays. Just seeing their faces when they get the message is priceless.
“If we can reach at least one child at one school that’s great,” Wells said.
For more information about CLIMB Theatre, visit www.climb.org.