For the past 39 years Chattanooga’s Kids on the Block has provided educational puppetry programs to schools and communities using the nationally recognized Kids on the Block puppets, focusing on awareness and prevention topics. With bullying and cyberbullying on the rise, CKOB continues to educate children through the newly developed program “Cyberbullying/Safe At School.”
Officials from CKOB said, "Due to the increased use of the internet among youth in connecting with local, regional and world issues, research indicates that it also has become a mask to hide behind. Recent studies show that 16.9 percent of middle and high school students identify as a cyberbullying victim and 34 percent of students claimed to have been bullied online at least once in their lifetime.
"Roughly 60 percent of students who claimed to have been cyberbullied explained that it negatively impacts both their feelings of safety and ability to learn. It was recently reported that a second grade student in Colorado committed suicide due to cyberbullying."
This program is in addition to the “Bullying” program available to youth in first through fourth grades. Both bullying programs address anger management, positive self-esteem, sucide prevention, body image, eating disorders and effecitive communication, among other sensitive issues, through the "unique and non threating medium of pupperty."
Due to the number of requests in 2017, CKOB developed, in corporation with the Concerned Kids of Toronto, Canada, the “Cyberbullying/Safe at School” program. Last year in its pilot development, CKOB worked with educators, parents and children to ensure the program contained age appropriate information and covered the sensitive issues of bullying online.
"The response last year was overwhelming and again this year, as a featured program primarily for fifth grade, it is becoming one of our most requested programs for students third through fifth grades," according to Ms. Williams.
CKOB evaluations and surveys indicate that 86 percent of elementary school students report that after seeing the educational program on “Bullying/Cyberbullying” they were more likely to stand up for a student who is being bullied and 75 percent said they were more likely to talk to a grown up if they were being bullied.
“We are listening to the needs of the children and families in our community and providing awareness and prevention education to meet those needs. Bullying is a serious issue. Just this week our office received an email from a local guidance counselor requesting our cyberbulling program and stating it was 100 percent needed in their school,” said CKOB Executive Director Kelly Williams.
“We are fortunate to have an educational program, unique in many ways, that is able to provide information to children about what bullying is and the consequences of being a bully and being bullied, as well as how to communicate more effectively with adults and caregivers to receive help.”
CKOB offers bullying programs to first, fourth and fifth grade students in 16 counties free of charge in Southeast Tennessee, North Georgia, and Alabama. It is through individual donations, corporate sponsorships, grants and fundraising events, that all programs are available to schools, both public and private, in the service area. Ms. Williams said that despite unexpected funding cuts and changes in grant funding requirements, there was a 7 percent increase in the number of requests overall for CKOB services.
“This was a record year for us,” said Ms. Williams, “having performed 500 educational programs, serving over 64,000 children and adults in our area, and that is despite funding cuts which have been severe. We hope to be able to continue the volumun of our services this year through continued and new partnerships throughout our service area.”
CKOB puppeteers are nationally trained Bunraku artists holding degrees in various disciplines. CKOB is one of the few Kids on the Block troupes licensed to perform all 45 of the national programs available to troupes throughout the country and have developed five new programs, including: “Cyberbullying,” “Financial Literacy,” “How Do I Look,” “Autism,” and “Vehicle Safety,”
For more information on CKOB or to schedule an educational program, visit www.kidsontheblock.net or call 423-757-5259.