In a rapidly changing world, it sometimes can seem impossible to fully emphasize the importance of safety to children. At Oak Street Middle School in New Boston, kids are being taught these lessons through the use of magic. The presentation has been an annual favorite for kids at Oak School since it began locally in 2002, and goes back even further, with presentations at schools all over the country. The program features Johnny Magic and Safety Pup, using magic and comedy to teach kids important lessons about smoking, strangers and other safety tips. "It's sponsored totally by local businesses and citizens of New Boston. It's a program that teaches kids about safety, and also a little bit about drug awareness," said New Boston police officer Ken Reed. Johnny Magic, originally from Cleveland, has been performing in the program for 10 years, doing about 130 shows a year all over the country. "All of the tricks are performed with a message, and we'll have audience participation. We cover strangers, peer pressure, making the right choices and smoking. The show changes every year," Magic said. One trick is used to teach kids about smoking by making a cigarette vanish and a white silk cloth turn black, to demonstrate what smoking does to your lungs. Magic said he thinks the national program has existed since the 1950s, and said he enjoys using his tricks to teach kids about staying safe. "It's a good community and school effort to make our kids learn how to stay safe," said Cathy Knauff, head teacher at Oak School. "The kids love it because it's always entertaining, but it's also educational. They get a kick out of getting to shake hands with Safety Pup." Knauff said the program is also performed for students at the Stanton Elementary School in New Boston. "You're never too old to learn about safety, and you're never too old to shake hands with the Safety Pup," she said, laughing.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.