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Patapsco pupils put on new faces at Heartlands


FOR HER Gifted and Talented Program project, sixth-grader Amanda Olagunju decided to send in the clowns.

To study the relationship between humor and health, Amanda and other children in Patapsco Middle School's Gifted and Talented Program dressed as clowns and entertained residents at Heartlands Senior Living Village in Ellicott City.

The school's resource teacher, Diane Boarman, said that those in the program have to do secondary and primary research for their project. For the secondary research, the youths read books on the topic. But for their primary research, they had to see firsthand how humor can improve health.

Once Amanda thought of the idea, others got involved. Participating are seventh-graders Naja Cunningham and Anna Wiggs; and sixth-graders Casey Gamber, Marissa Murphy, Kim Riley, Jasmyne Rose-Avery, Veronica Stegmaier and Sharniece Thorton.

Boarman has a friend who attended clown college, so she invited the friend to Patapsco to teach schoolchildren how to clown around.

The nine involved in the project learned about makeup and props, and rehearsed a repertoire of "knock-knock" and other jokes. They also practiced making animal balloons and sang "If You're Happy and You Know It." Finally, they were ready.

On April 12, four of the children went to the center dressed in clown costumes and makeup, and entertained about 20 assisted-living residents. Three more trips to the center are planned this month and next, with half of those taking part in the project going each time, Boarman said.

The youths told jokes from books and some that were original. For one of the original jokes, a pupil planned to ask if anyone wanted to see her 14-karat bracelet, and then she would pull out a bracelet decorated with carrots. For another original joke, a youth would say he went to the new "two-story" library, "and I checked them both out," holding up two books.

While the children were clowning around, the nursing staff was filling out a brief check sheet, noting if the residents were smiling more, eating more and other indicators.

At the end of the experiment, the schoolchildren will examine the data to determine whether humor can have a positive impact on health.

Boarman says she has anecdotal evidence that the youths are improving the residents' health. One woman who attended the event reluctantly said she had a great time. Another, who suffers from dementia, said the balloon animals made by the children would keep her from being lonely.

Creative writing

Aspiring writers might want to check out the talk being given by Abby Bardi of Ellicott City, whose first novel, The Book of Fred, was published recently.

Bardi, who teaches creative writing, English and literature at Prince George's Community College, will discuss writing at 7 p.m. May 14 at the Miller branch library, 9421 Frederick Road, Ellicott City. She will talk about how she got her book published by Washington Square Press, and how she took it "from idea to completion."

The Book of Fred is about 15-year-old Mary Fred, who moves in with a foster family after she is taken from her parents. Each character in the book gets a chance to tell his or her story as the book chronicles their attempts to get along.

Bardi, who is also a singer-songwriter, is working on her second novel, which she says will be based in Ellicott City. The Book of Fred has gotten good reviews, although it might not have received the attention it deserves because it was published Sept. 11.

May Day

Children ages 3 to 5 can celebrate May Day at the Elkridge library by dancing around a maypole, listening to stories and making a springtime craft.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. May 1. Registration is required and begins Wednesday. Register in person at the Elkridge branch children's desk, or 410-313-5085.

School play

Students at Mount Hebron High School will perform Me and My Girl at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the school auditorium. The show has 80 cast members and 50 students taking part behind the scenes or in the orchestra.

The leads will be played by junior Kevin Norman and sophomore Sarah Pfeifer. Supporting roles will be filled by Kristen Zwobot, Jake Barron, Jessica Ball, Mike Grew and Brian Kurtzman. Senior Jessica Henry and alumna Julie Dauber helped with the choreography.

Tickets are $8 and will be sold at the school daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; to reserve tickets: 410-313-2880.

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