Theater group teaches kids how to stop bullying

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“Go away, we don’t like your ugly gray beak,” the bullying blue jay told the cowering cowbird, who just wanted to play with her neighbors in the tree.

First the cowbird tried changing the color of her beak, but that didn’t work. Then, on the advice of her friend the rhyming robin, she tries fighting the blue jay and gets beat.

“Tell Big Ben,” the robin says, but the cowbird doesn’t.

Luckily for the cowbird, the blue jays fly away and a new bird moves in, a golden winged warbler. The new neighbor likes the cowbird but hates the shy robin’s “ugly orange” breast” and won’t let robin play with them.

And so it goes, while at least a couple hundred Churchill Elementary School students in kindergarten, first and second grade watch actors from the CLIMB Theatre demonstrate what and what isn’t bullying and how to handle it correctly, all the while keeping the young ones and their teachers thoroughly entertained Friday morning.

“Hurting kids and not letting them play, breaking their things or taking them away, when it happens day after day, we call it bullying,” robin explains to cowbird.

But when robin runs to the tree, Big Ben, to tell tales on cowbird and the warbler because they don’t want to play the same game he does, Big Ben gently chides him.

“When you tell about something small because you want someone to get in trouble, that’s tattling,” he said, clarifying later that tattling and reporting are different.

Reporting is “when you tell because you want to keep someone safe,” the wise tree said.

CLIMB’s mission is to create and perform plays, classes, and other works that inspire and propel people, especially young people, toward actions that benefit themselves, each other, and their communities. Each year, CLIMB brings plays and classes to more than 400 schools throughout six states including Minnesota, reaching approximately 200,000 students. Friday’s play was made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant.