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The Page Hilltop third grade cast of "Good Manners".

"Good Manners" narrator Annika Preston addresses the audience.

Lezlie Walker and Jayden Ndjigue as Sir Gwendolyn and Sir Dancelot try to restore polite behavior to their village in the play "Good Manners"

By Katrina Drew

Correspondent

AYER -- Two classes of budding third-grade thespians delighted the student body of the Page Hilltop School in February with their production of "Good Manners: A Medieval Quest for Polite Behavior." This play, along with 50 other productions, was penned by Bad Wolf Press' John Heath and Ron Fink as a way to incorporate mandated curriculum facts with humor and music.

"Good Manners" was performed by Mrs. Oppenheim and Ms. Boudreau's classes of 8- and 9-year-olds. "We are so proud of our students," Oppenheim said. "They worked so hard over the last few months to put on a show that both entertained and educated the audience."

This dramatic piece was set in the Middle Ages and focuses on a kingdom that has had a wicked spell cast on it. The spell eliminates good manners, and it is up to Sir Gwendolyn and Sir Dancelot to reverse the curse by helping the characters rediscover polite behavior. An alchemist invents hygiene to dispel germs, a black knight inspires the audience to learn to help others, a damsel -- who was not in distress -- teaches to respect people's privacy, an abbot sings the praises of table manners, and a kind-hearted dragon urges people to not name-call because it hurts people's feelings.


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Third-grader Annika Preston served as the narrator throughout this journey to restore manners back to the village. "I was a little nervous at first, but then it was really fun," Preston said. Preston's mother, Kathleen, whose older son was in one of Oppenheim's previous annual productions, was impressed with the show.

"I have seen how much Annika and her classmates learned through this process. This is such an invaluable experience for these students."

Page Hilltop Principal Fred Deppe agreed with Preston and was very clearly proud of these students and their teachers. "The grade 3 production of 'character education' plays is an annual tradition that is looked forward to by students and teachers alike," Deppe said. "I, personally, enjoy not only viewing these productions but also being invited to play a small role by the students each year."

Deppe added, "These play productions encompass a variety of skillsets as they align with numerous learning standards. For many of these young students, this is the beginning of a passion for the dramatic arts. What sets these plays apart from many other school-time productions is that they all have a thematic basis in social-emotional learning. The student audience learns positive character skills while enjoying the show."

Oppenheim and Boudreau both wanted to give special thanks and recognition to Mrs. Reeves, Mr. Morandi, Ms. Oliveira, and Ms. Swenson for all of their help and support of "Good Manners." They also extended their gratitude to the Page Hilltop PTO for providing the funding to purchase the play.