Chippewa Falls school

CHIPPEWA FALLS — A state grant will help fund an update to the Chippewa Falls Middle School alcohol and nicotine abuse program.

The Department of Public Instruction awarded $1,000 to the school last week through its Student Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Mini-Grant Program. The money will be used toward the school’s Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse program Be Free Puppetry.

The program allows a group of 18 to 20 fifth graders at each of the six elementary schools in Chippewa Falls to perform a puppet show annually after a nine-week curriculum which conveys messages to K-5 students about the dangers of abusing alcohol, nicotine and other drugs. The show is then performed twice during the school day for students and staff, followed by a show for the community in the evening. The fifth-graders use a reference video to craft their show, which will be updated this year by a group of seventh-graders at Chippewa Falls Middle School, which is where the funds from the DPI grant will be utilized.

Andrea Smith, director of the Cardinal Community Learning Center, said the need for an updated reference video for the Be Free Puppetry program is essential as the current material is outdated.

“The grant was written because we’ve really exhausted our resources for updated content,” Smith said. “Everything is so dated, and there isn’t really anything else out there in terms of a puppet show, so this year we’ve asked our leadership group at the middle school to have a group of seventh-graders at the middle school create their own show. They’ll create their own script, act it out and tackle the issue of peer pressure in social media in terms of alcohol and nicotine use.”

The new seventh grade show will be professionally videotaped by Eau Claire based media group, Ivy Media and will require a full day of filming/editing. Rather than having adults in the video, Smith said having a group of their own peers convey the cautionary themes about alcohol and drug abuse is important because they can relate to the subjects more and relate to them easier.

“The peer-to-peer is a little more influential on the kids than their parents,” Smith said. “The parents do a good job, but when their peers are giving them a clear message about the dangers of any AODA issues it seems to be a little more impactful.”

In addition to the DPI grant, middle school and the Be Free Puppetry program received a donation from the Chippewa Foundation of Chippewa County Community Needs Unrestricted Fund for $950, bringing the total funds for the project up to $1,950.

Smith said the added funds from the foundation were vital to bringing the project to fruition as the funds from the DPI donation would’ve covered approximately half of the cost of the video.