AYER -- Third-grade teachers Valerie Tessier and Amy Arsenault have found a way to make stories come to life for their students. For the past four months, their students have been working on a dramatic production to make a tale jump off the page for themselves and for the audiences they would delight with their performance.
Bad Wolf Press's "Munchkin Mediation: Conflict Resolution in Oz" provided a wonderful opportunity for the children to have fun and learn at the same time. "It was amazing to see how much the children grew over the months that we worked on this," said Tessier. She added that there were so many benefits to the students through doing this play. A few that Tessier mentioned were "the lessons they learned from the play itself, the confidence they gained by being on stage, and the cooperative skills they gained through learning to work together as a cast."
Ron Fink and his partner, lyricist John Heath, explain the Bad Wolf shows are "filled with facts (i.e. mandated curriculum) but the story and the humor combined with music and rhyme do their stuff to help kids understand and retain what they need to remember." Tessier and Arsenault researched the play options from this company and thought this one was just right for their student body. "The conflict resolution subject matter touches all kids at this age," said Arsenault. "This is such a fun and meaningful way to present this topic."
"Munchkin Mediation" allows the audience to go on a journey with a group of lollipop-holding munchkins through Oz as they enlighten all of the "Wizard of Oz" characters as to the different ways to deal with conflict.
In November, the classes started rehearsing the production that included ten songs with skits in between. The teachers felt their students were ready in mid-April to perform their show for the kindergarten through fifth grade classes they share their school with.
Audience members were entertained with the lovely voices and acting of the youngsters, but the most memorable aspects of this event were the values learned by the characters. The Wicked Witch of the East, played by Alicia Towne and Katie Kilcommins, learned that the first step in managing conflict it to take a deep breath and calm down, while Emily Granger as Monica the flying monkey learned to use "I statements" to control her anger.
Dorothy and Toto, played by Samantha Murphy and Keith Bakke, learned to actively listen to friends and not interrupt before Grace Martin's scarecrow figured out how to deal with conflict and not just avoid it. The Wicked Witch of the West, Sara Surette, and the Good Witch of the North, Lorelei Folger, saw the wisdom in seeing each other's perspective, while Colby Melanson and Lili Kaeppel, as the Tin Woodman and the Lion, brainstormed to find "win-win" solutions.
Lastly, the Wizard, played by Liam Mayes, spoke of ridding himself of anger through journaling, and the Winkies explained to the audience the importance of following through on your agreements.
Tessier and Arsenault were so proud of their actors and actresses. "Every child did such an amazing job," Arsenault said. Tessier agreed and added, "It was wonderful to see each of them shine in their own unique way."
Page Hilltop Principal Fred Deppe was impressed by the third-graders. "This is education at its best," he said. "The skills and lessons learned by doing a play like this are invaluable." Deppe thanked Tessier, Arsenault and their team for all of the hard work and time they put in to help the students show their character and be the best they could be.
Tessier and Arsenault wanted to thank the Page Hilltop PTO for purchasing the play, Page Hilltop Art Teacher Mrs. Cowley for making the scenery, Music Teacher Mrs. Swenson for helping rehearse the songs, and Mrs. Reeves and Mrs. Guimond for their continued help and support throughout the play.