WORTHINGTON - Students at Prairie Elementary received a unique lesson in bullying courtesy of four performances by Minnesota’s own CLIMB Theatre. 

The traveling troupe is based out of Inver Grove Heights, south of St. Paul. In its original plays, “Jays Away” and “The Actors’ Union Club,” the trio of actors taught students how to identify and prevent bullying behavior.

In “Jays Away,” actors Justin Cervantes, Juliana Lai and Churaqui Mosley - along with several puppets - play a series of birds who live in a tree known as Big Ben. In the story, the cowbird (played by Lai) is bullied by a group of blue jays (Mosely). The cowbird turns to her friend the rhyming robin (Cervantes) for support.

However, when a new bird enters the fray, the cowbird’s loyalties are tested as she stands by while the robin is bullied by the newcomer golden wing (also Mosley). In the end, the pair of feathered friends learn to stand up to their bullies and support one another.

The play is designed to address what constitutes bullying and what does not in terms a young child can understand.

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With bullying becoming a household phrase and a buzzword of sorts, kids often call singular incidents or even pure accidents bullying.

In the play, the cowbird accidentally breaks the robin’s stick while playing. When the robin turns to Big Ben to get the cowbird in trouble, the wise tree points out not only the difference in accidents and isolated incidents versus bullying, but also addresses the difference between tattling and reporting.

CLIMB Theatre is a nationally recognized non-profit company that has provided programing to pre-K through grade 12 schools for 39 years. CLIMB’s mission is to create and perform plays, classes and other works that inspire and propel people, especially young people, toward actions that benefit themselves, each other and their communities. Each year CLIMB brings plays and classes to more than 400 schools throughout Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois and Wisconsin, reaching approximately 200,000 students.

CLIMB is the 2014 winner of the Mission Award for Anti-Racism Initiatives. In 2009, CLIMB was awarded the prestigious Sara Spencer Artistic Achievement Award from the national association AATE, which promotes standards of excellence in theatre and theatre education. CLIMB’s work is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.