Program aims to stop smoking before it starts


September 26, 2002|By Lorraine Gingerich | Lorraine Gingerich,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LAST WEEK, children at Brookfield Christian School in Clarksville watched a puppet show about the dangers of tobacco presented by the "Wee Won't Smoke Program." A collaboration between two Howard County agencies, the program is designed to teach children about the damage that cigarette smoking can do.

"We're trying to get the message out to the very young," said Caren Logan-Absalom of the Howard County Child Care Resource Center.

Debbie Yare of the Howard County Department of Citizen Services had an idea that money from the Maryland Cigarette Restitution Fund Program could be used to create puppet shows for preschool children. She contacted the Child Care Resource Center and the Howard County Health Department. "She thought this would be a good avenue to reach young children," Logan-Absalom said.

Shanta Williams, director of tobacco control at the Health Department, was glad to have the opportunity to get the message to youngsters. "We joined forces," she said.

Williams and Logan-Absalom brought in Paradise Events of Ellicott City to present the puppet shows.

On Sept. 16, puppeteers Kathy Culler of Marriottsville and Lori Nowicki of Clarksville got the show under way by introducing the children to the puppets. "This might be their first experience [with puppets]," said Logan-Absalom. An introduction might help put the children at ease, she said.

The show featured guest appearances by heart, brain and stomach puppets. "Smoking turns the lungs a nasty brown instead of pink," one of them said. It also featured the "Wee Won't Smoke" theme song, which was sung to the tune of "Three Blind Mice." Paradise Events owner Jeff Good and Culler wrote the lyrics.

Logan-Absalom commended the puppeteers. "They work very hard to establish a rapport with the children," she said.

A learning and activity book, stickers and a copy of the song accompanied the children home to reinforce the no-smoking message. The Health Department also provided a pamphlet, titled "50 Ways to Resist the Urge to Smoke," for parents.

But Logan-Absalom stresses that the puppet programs are for children, and no one expects the children to pass the message on to the adults in their lives. "They can't control the adults," Logan-Absalom said.

Williams said that her agency provides information for adults. "The prevention program is broader than at the preschool level," she said. "We're trying to target public school and college-age students as well."

She said her agency works with ethnic groups, pregnant women and others to reduce smoking and tobacco use. In addition, the Health Department offers classes on how to stop smoking. "It's a very broad program of prevention, education, cessation and enforcement," Williams said.

The "Wee Won't Smoke Program" will be offered to day care centers and nursery schools in the county, and in public venues such as KidsFest at Savage Mill on Saturday and the International Fall Festival in Oakland Mills on Oct. 12.

"The program is out there if people would take advantage of it," Williams said.

International teacher

River Hill High School English teacher Linda Storey enjoys her work - so she is sharing her enthusiasm with children in Ukraine. Storey will participate in a teacher exchange program that will send her abroad next month as an educational ambassador.

Storey, who was the 2001 Maryland Teacher of the Year, had to complete a "pretty extensive application" process to be considered for the program. She said that each city competes for American teachers to visit.

"They have to vie for us by presenting the best itinerary," she said.

Storey will travel with two suitcases: one for personal items and the other filled with gifts. Superintendent John R. O'Rourke has written several congratulatory proclamations, and students at River Hill will make bookmarks with poems and pictures to share with Ukrainian students.

"Storey said that when the Soviet Union fell, Ukrainians who had money in Russian banks suffered substantial losses. Simple things such as chalk and plastic report sleeves are in demand. Storey will also try to take American stickers, flags and T-shirts.

American Councils (formerly American Councils for International Education) in Washington sponsors the program, which will run from Oct. 13-30. Storey plans to share her experiences with her students.

"I think it's very important for our students to know how great they have it," she said.

Apples, candy

Jennings Chapel United Methodist Church will hold its Fall Festival on Oct. 5, with apple butter, candy, toys, candles, jewelry, crafts, plants, produce, flower arrangements and apple dumplings.

"The apple dumplings go like hotcakes," said festival coordinator Guinevere Warfield.

New this year is a model train exhibit, which will be set up by Arthur Wollan, husband of the church's pastor, Martha Wollan.

Homemade chicken corn soup, vegetable soup, barbecue and baked goods will be available for lunch. Items donated by members of the congregation will be sold in the White Elephant Room. The festivities will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 2601 Jennings Chapel Road, about three miles south of Interstate 70.

Information: 410-489-4851.

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