Newslink Indiana

Students learn to respect others with puppets
Michelle Long
Mar. 03, 2006

MUNCIE, Ind. (NLI) - An increase in the population of students with disabilities at Storer Elementary school is helping to teach students to appreciate their differences.

The "Kids on the Block" program uses puppets to demonstrate that students with physical or mental disabilities have many of the same abilities as other children. The program also taught students about cultural differences.

"[I learned] how to treat kids when they're in wheelchairs, and not to treat them different from anybody else," said Sharlena New, a fourth grader at the school.

The real life story from a young woman in a wheelchair also allowed students to ask questions about the woman's life. After an accident at age six, the woman suffered a brain injury that left her paralyzed from the waist down.

Puppet Mark Riley also spoke to the students as an Irish 10-year old about life with cerebral palsy - in a skit called "New Friends." His friend, Salima, is from Pakistan and discussed her Muslim traditions in a skit called "All American Girl."

The coordinator of the program, VSA - formerly known as Very Special Arts - used a grant from the United Way of Delaware County to help bring the puppets to Muncie and fund the presentations.

The assistant district coordinator for VSA, Sarah Miller, said this program is particularly important to Storer Elementary.

"With integration in more and more schools lately with children with disabilities, it's really important for all the students to get to know that their peers have abilities, strengths, and weaknesses just like them," she said.

This year 38 students with disabilities were added at the school, after the closing of Morrison Mock Elementary.

Presentations continue through the month of March, also the national "Disability Awareness Month."


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