Puppets Teach Traffic Safety Following Fatality – QNS.com

Puppets Teach Traffic Safety Following Fatality

by HOWARD GIRSKY A stepped-up traffic safety campaign led by troupes of puppeteers took to Queens schools last week in the aftermath of a tragic accident that took the life of a five-year-old Forest Hills schoolgirl.
The child, Juhi Shah, was killed last week in front of her apartment complex on Queens Blvd., when she stepped in front of her school bus and was crushed while her horrified mother looked on.
Borough President Claire Shulman issued a statement last week calling "the tragic death a heartbreaking one that motivates us to redouble our efforts to try and prevent traffic accidents and fatalities.
As a result, she announced that her office will reach out to Our Lady of Mercy School, where Juhi was a kindergarten student, to schedule an appearance of the Queens Safety Puppet Theater.
The traffic safety campaign resumed on March 29 at P.S. 87 in Middle Village when three kindergarten classes trooped into a room to watch Marie DeNavarro and Walter Stone of the Jamaica Arts Center’s Queens Safety Puppet Theater entertain delighted youngsters.
The two-part presentation features outsized puppets called Ginger and Bobby who enter into a dialogue about traffic safety followed by a rap video, called "Safe City Rap," exhorting children to "buckle up."
Ginger and Bobby urge children to remember the safety "tools," especially the biggest tool of all, the brain. The puppets then explain the significance of red, yellow and green traffic lights.
The video rap emphasizes the importance of seat belts.
"Buckle your seat belt, buckle in right, low and tight," the rappers chant to the amusement of their young audience.
The two puppeteers who have visited 20 Queens schools so far acknowledged that their script does not guide children on the proper way to entering and leaving school buses. Little Juhi died while leaving her school bus.
The puppets, which were designed especially for the program, stand three feet tall and resemble Muppets. There are male and female puppets with different skin tones.
Each of the puppets also has a winter and a summer wardrobe.
According to Arlynn Brody, principal at P.S. 87, the puppet troupe is helpful in teaching traffic safety, but said other programs are needed. The puppeteers themselves agreed.
Nora Ward, a kindergartner at the school, said she had learned a lot from the program.
"I learned to look both ways and to buckle my seat belt."
Little James Keenan agreed it was important to buckle up.
"I feel safer now," he said.
Sara Pecker, coordinator of the puppet troupe, said that last year three pair of performers had reached 30,000 Queens youngsters.
"It’s been run out of the borough president’s office for the last two and one-half years with funding from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee."
She said the puppeteers are senior citizens who volunteer for the duty.
"They’re wonderful," she said. They put in a lot of time and they love children."

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