ARLINGTON -- Students at Fisher Elementary School in Arlington were treated to a performance this week that promoted bullying awareness and offered solutions to students who might be bullied currently.
TIGER (Theatre Integrating Guidance, Education, and Responsibility), a five-person educational theater company based out of New Hampshire visited the school to perform a one-hour musical skit for kindergarten through fifth-graders on anti-bullying education Thursday morning, called, "Bully Free, You and Me."
According to Fisher Elementary School Counselor Tristina McDonald, the group has visited the school once a year for the past four years, each year focusing on a different theme.
Other programs offered by TIGER include one called, "Just Between Friends," which teaches students the ABCs of being a good friend, and "Let Your Star Shine," which promotes self-esteem.
This year's anti-bullying performance followed heavy anti-bullying education on McDonald's part since the fall.
"October is National Bullying Prevention Month, so in each of the classrooms, based on the different age levels, we talked about what bullying is and what to do if you're ever being bullied," McDonald said, explaining that she came up with an acronym for kids to remember, apropos of the TIGER program, known as PAWS: Pretend it doesn't bother you, Assert yourself, Walk away, and Seek help. "Today they got to see everything that we talked about earlier in the year acted out and learned some new tactics, too."
McDonald said that while she believe the students absorbed and understood much of the information with which she presented them earlier in the year, she believes TIGER's performance is more effective.
"I think when the kids are this young, 5 to 10 years old, you can talk about it (bullying) but I think they learn better seeing the concepts acted out and seeing real life situations," she said.
Throughout the performance, the troupe acted out various bullying scenarios for the students through song, dance, and dialogue, and then offered solutions to each of the problems.
According to Richard Moses, a TIGER member, each show uses TIGER as a different acronym to coincide with the show's theme.
In the case of "Bully Free, You and Me," TIGER stood for "Take action, I can say, "no," Get help, Exit when necessary, and Respect," all tactics taught to the students throughout the show to combat bullying in real-life situations.
"The program is great because it really reinforces what the guidance department in each school is already doing, and in a fun way," Moses said. "It's entertaining but educational at the same time."
Following the show, the older students in grades 3-5 were broken into groups to participate in follow-up anti-bullying workshops.
During the workshops, students role-played bullying scenarios and applied the tactics they witnessed throughout the performance as practice.
"The kids really do remember what they learn. That's the important thing," Moses said, explaining that the work he and his fellow members carry out is rewarding to say the least. "If you get just one kid to realize that they don't have to take it (bullying), that they can tell someone if they are being bullied, and get help, then they realize that school can be a fun place again. They don't have to be afraid to go to school," he continued. "It's fun to do this work but to know that what we do is really having an impact on the kids is really gratifying."
McDonald said she hopes to have the group back next year.
TIGER performs in schools throughout northern New England. To learn more about their workshops, visit www.plymouth.edu/outreach/tiger.