The Kids on the Block, Inc.
Columbia, Maryland USA
The Kids on the Block (KOB) educational puppet theatre company researches, develops and performs live programs addressing a wide range of topics, including childrens mental health. Founded in 1977, KOB has become a leader in educational programs for children. During performances, puppet characters talk to children with humor, candor, and sensitivity about topics like disability awareness, social concerns, educational differences and medical issues. In the process, they create awareness and understanding in an effective and fun way. Over 42 program topics have been developed and over 1,500 troupes are performing in the U.S. and internationally. KOB, Inc., in Columbia, Maryland, is the national headquarters for all KOB affiliate troupes.
KOB was approached by several mental health organizations in the early 1990s with a problem. While childrens physical needs were being identified and met, their mental health needs were being neglected. Many children held stigmatizing views that mirrored those of their parents, associating only negative thoughts toward mental health services. Children actively using mental health services often were teased and socially isolated.
In 1996 through a collaborative sponsorship with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAHMSA), Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), and the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), The Kids on the Block helped launch the Caring for Each and Every Childs Mental Health: Communities Together Campaign. By performing scripted material focusing on the issues of depression and mental health services, KOB aims to educate the general public by demonstrating that caring for ones mental health is as important as caring for ones physical health. Puppet characters role-model positive interactions with one another by discussing issues, such as seeking services or talking about depression, and then working through conflict in a positive way. Following each performance, children are given the opportunity to ask questions of the characters. The welcoming medium of puppetry encourages young people to ask puppets things they often feel too embarrassed to ask a real person. The program also includes follow-up activities for educators and other professionals.
After its initial launch, The KOB Program on Childrens Mental Health was utilized as an outreach tool by 28 mental health associations and other community organizations in 36 States, Canada, and Ireland. Presently, 155 organizations are educating children in their communities through these performance. Programmatic activity has stretched far beyond the original four year scope of the original campaign, testifying to the powerful and sustainable messages it communicates.
To obtain further information about The Kids on the Block program, you may contact an educational consultant at 1-800-368-5437 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional resources are available on the program Web site at www.kotb.com