Healing Power of Laughter
sick children feel better is no joke. But for the over 300 third-grade
kids at Manhattan’s PS 128, learning that they can help others
feel better through humor has been serious business.
project teaches them to read, write and, at the same time, to
become better citizens through learning the importance of helping
others,” Elaine Farber, the teacher who conceived of Project HEAL—Health,
Education and Laughter. Farber was standing in line at the bank
when she saw a poster about “Comedy Cures!” a non-profit foundation
that “really caught my eye and gave me a surge of inspiration.”
Farber contacted Saranne Rothberg, the founder, who learned about
the healing power of laughter when, during her own cancer radiation
treatment, her eight-year old daughter brought her a joke-book
at the hospital.
And thus, a community project was born.
books were already part of the literacy standards at the school,”
said Farber, a teacher for over 20 years. “So we thought, why
not do a project of the children writing, researching and collecting
their own jokes? And, in the end, why not have the students put
together a Wellness Joke Book and present it to sick children
at a hospital? Really, just think of the powerfully layered learning
experience of third-grade students doing something unique like
Reflecting the bilingual nature of the school and the neighborhood,
the jokes are in both English and Spanish. The large, colorful,
laminated joke books were written, illustrated, annotated and
put together by the children of PS 128.
At the presentation of the books at New York Presbyterian Hospital,
not many eyes managed to remain dry. Some cried because it was
so touching to see so many children, many of whom don’t have much
to laugh about in their own lives, so happy and proud about their
accomplishment. And some laughed until tears came because the
jokes—at least some of the jokes—were so funny.
Here is one example:
Kid: “Mom, I’m not going back to school today.”
Mom: “Why not?”
Kid: “Well, yesterday the teacher told us that ‘3 plus 2 was five,
4 plus 1 was five, and 5 plus 0 was five.’”
Kid: “So I’m not going back to a teacher who can’t make up his
proud to have a school where every single teacher really tries
to go above and beyond the call of duty,” said Blanca Battino,
principal of PS 128, in her address. “Mrs. Farber and Saranne
were the engines to this project. But nothing could have been
accomplished without the commitment and enthusiasm of these wonderful
kids. They’ve learned so much from this project in so many ways.
But I’m certain that the single most important thing they’ve learned
was that a big part of life is giving love and joy to others.”
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