WSCC Nursing student Lana Sides

Wallace State Nursing student Lana Sides trains with one of the puppets during a workshop for students interested in volunteering with the Children’s of Alabama Kids on the Block puppetry program.

WSCC Media Relations

HANCEVILLE — Laughter, music and applause could be heard in a classroom recently in the School of Nursing and Center for Science at Wallace State Community College. All were the result of a workshop for students interested in helping to educate youth on safety and wellness through the Children’s of Alabama’s Kids on the Block Troupe.

Children’s of Alabama approached Wallace State about initiating a program here as a way for them to branch out into the North Alabama region, said Janet Brown, pediatric nursing instructor at WSCC. Toward that effort, Children’s of Alabama donated to the college a number of puppets, props and other support and training materials, worth an estimated value of about $10,000, Brown said.

Brown was overjoyed to see about 20 nursing students attend the first workshop. Two of those were Quiana Fair and Kristen Crotzer, both students in the associate degree program.

“I think it will be interesting,” Fair said of learning how to work with the puppets and perform for youngsters. “I definitely want to find out more.”

Crotzer said the program would be a good distraction, not only for nursing students like herself, but for the children they will entertain and inform along the way, especially once they use those skills in a hospital setting.

“You see how easy it will be to get a kid’s attention with the puppets,” she said. “It will take their mind off their pain for a minute.”

During the two-hour workshop, the students learned the different skills needed for puppetry: lip synchronization, eye focus, posture and gestures. Once they get a good handle on those skills, they will learn skits and perform 10-minute routines at area schools.

The Wallace State troupe’s first performances will be in September and October when they hold two SWELL (Safety Wellness Education for Lifestyle Learning) clinics at East and West Elementary schools in Cullman. The SWELL program is unique to Wallace State and developed by Brown. It will also incorporate students from the EMS, Dental and Visual Arts programs.

The puppeteers will touch on numerous subjects during the SWELL clinics, including head injury prevention, hand washing, poison control, and more. Students in second and third grades will benefit from the program this year and will get take-home educational materials to share with their siblings and parents. Brown expressed her appreciation of Dr. Matt Dillinger for donating toothbrushes for each child to take home from each of the schools.

Brown is excited about the program on many levels. The community outreach and educational experience for area children is one area she’s pleased with. “It’s just a fun way for students to learn a lot and also to give back to our community,” she said.

It will also be beneficial to students at Wallace State, who will learn how to better communicate with pediatric patients and develop effective teaching mechanisms for instructing both young patients and their parents how to take care of their disease and themselves. “It’s good for their resume that they have volunteered for the Children’s of Alabama Kids on the Block program,” Brown said.

For more information about the Wallace State nursing program, call 256.352.8199 or visit

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