Third graders Margarita Maritano and Katelyn Martinez listen carefully to the presentation of Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Performance “PEACE Signs.”
The 9-year-old Maritano was one of the 350 students at West Fresno Elementary School in Fresno who learned ways to resolve conflicts peacefully during a performance the theatre production on anti-bullying and conflict resolution which followed students facing challenging issues including name-calling, bullying and domestic violence as well as peer pressure.
“It’s important for our students to participate in these types of opportunities in order to provide them with tools and strategies on how to support conflict that they might encounter on campus, whether is them personally or helping out another friend on that level,” said school principal Prince Marshall.
Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program uses performers/educators, audience interaction, comedy, music and dance during its 45-minute performance to promote peaceful conflict resolution.
“PEACE Signs” takes place on a school playground strewn with trash where a teacher brings four troubled students together to solve their problems, so they can clean up the playground before it is shut down. As the students find ways to deal with issues such as bullying and peer pressure, they transform the playground from a place where fights happen to a place where friends can play together peacefully.
Felipe Mercado, deputy principal at West Fresno Elementary and Middle schools, said many of the topics discussed in the “PEACE Signs” performance mirror some of the same issues some students at the school may be dealing with.
“Many of our students live in neighborhoods where violence occurs, and we want them to know there are other ways to deal with issues rather than resorting to violence,” Mercado said.
Students in third, fourth and fifth grade attended the performance on March 18. A family-night performance of “PEACE Signs” took take place on March 21 in the West Fresno Elementary multi-purpose room for families and community members.
Besides performing in Fresno, Kaiser Permantente’s Educational Theatre Performance “PEACE Signs” will visit several elementary school in the Central Valley including Alexander Hamilton Elementary School in Stockton on April 8, Lois E. Borchardt Elementary in Lody on April 10, as well as several school in the Sacramento area including John Bidwell Elementary on May 13, Caroline Wenzel Elementary on May 15 and a Family Night at John Bidwell Elementar on May 16.
Kaiser Permanente’s award-winning Educational Theatre Program includes four different age-specific productions that teach students how to make healthier life choices. The programs have been developed by physicians, health educators and theatre professionals at Kaiser Permanente in collaboration with community advisory committees of educators, counselors, parents and students. The productions and workshops are offered free of charge to eligible schools and community groups.