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Arthur from PBS Talks to NEA Today

A special episode of his hit show is about supporting children when someone they know has cancer.

The award-winning children’s show “Arthur” and the Lance Armstrong Foundation have teamed up to create a special episode of the program and publish free resources to help families and school professionals talk to kids about cancer.

A 16-page family activity booklet, entitled When Someone You Know Has Cancer, offers ideas for how to talk with children when a loved one is diagnosed, as well as activity options and recommended books. It is available in Spanish and English, and classroom sets may be ordered at Dr. Paula Rauch, director of the Marjorie E. Korff PACT Program (Parenting at a Challenging Time) at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Cancer Center, advised on the booklet’s content.

K-2 lesson plans have also been created and are posted online at the same site. The lessons give teachers tools for engaging children in conversations about cancer and survivorship and aim to involve kids in positive community service activities.

“The Great MacGrady”—the new episode dealing with the cancer diagnosis of everybody’s favorite lunch lady and featuring Lance Armstrong—premieres on PBS for five consecutive days the week of October 19, 2009. It offers children a developmentally appropriate introduction to cancer and the emotions and reactions that surround this surprisingly common challenge. After its premiere, the episode can be ordered on iTunes (search under “Arthur”) for use in schools.

NEA Today had an opportunity to meet with Arthur, a third-grader at Lakewood Elementary School, about his beloved lunch lady and what he's learned about the disease.

Hello Arthur! We hear your lunch lady recently found out she has cancer. Can you tell us how it made you feel when you heard that she’s sick?

Well, at first I was really worried. But I talked to my mom and dad who said they understood how I could be worried, and they were so glad I told them. Together we thought of ways we could help Mrs. MacGrady and, as a family, we made lots of chicken soup. (Dad’s special recipe!) DW and I brought it over to Mrs. MacGrady and she really liked it. DW insisted on wearing a mask because she was afraid to catch the cancer. Well, DW was confused; you can’t catch cancer.

And then you had a visit from bicyclist Lance Armstrong! What did he teach you about cancer and recovery?

Lance told us that it was okay to be worried and that being a good friend would really help Mrs. MacGrady. He reminded us that there are a lot of different ways to be a good friend. You can visit, laugh together, help out with light chores, even organize a bike rally. And it’s important to talk about how you feel with your family and teachers. (I learned that my dog, Pal, is a great listener, too!)

Arthur, what would you like educators to know about talking with children about cancer?

I’d like them to know that kids can have all different kinds of reactions when someone they know and love gets sick. So kids need to be reminded that they can talk about their feelings and worries with their parents and teachers. And most kids will feel so much better, knowing that there are things they can do to really help!

Illustrations: © 2009 WGBH /Cookie Jar Entertainment Inc. Underlying TM/© Marc Brown.


Arthur Episode Helps Kids Cope with Cancer

Arthur Episode Helps Kids Cope with Cancer
Watch a clip from the new Arthur episode about a lunch lady who is battling cancer.

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