HUGHESTOWN — Learning about history can be boring, but a comedy act performed at the Martin F. Quinn Primary Center proved otherwise.
Students were provided with a performance called “Uncle Sam’s Comedy Jam” which told the story of how the Constitution and Bill of Rights came to be through a comedic act.
The star of the show Cris Johnson, of Niagra Falls, New York, understands that to keep young students focused on the performance you have to engage them, which was why he instilled his performance with comedy as well as calling on student volunteers.
“If you get up in front of kids this age, or really any kid, and you’re monotone like Ferris Bueller’s teacher, you’re going to lose the kids instantly,” Johnson said. “You have to be silly, over the top, have music, gags and magic to keep them engaged because this many kids, if you’re not a good presenter, you’re going to lose them.”
From start to finish, Johnson had the students engrossed in the story he was trying to tell. He called on student volunteers to play roles of historical figures and act out certain scenarios while also performing magic tricks.
He believes getting the students involved in the show is another way to keep them focused on the story.
“It’s the best part of the show,” Johnson said. “Anybody can get up there and just do a speech behind a podium. I wouldn’t do what I do if I couldn’t get the kids involved. That’s the best part for me.”
Johnson’s performance on the Constitution and Bill of Rights is one of a dozen he performs with his company Cris Johnson’s Amazing 12 Shows.
He performs in various parts of the United States and Canada and has shows on math, bullying, reading, character education, science, Halloween and Christmas.
It was two years ago that Johnson decided to start doing shows on the American Constitution and Bill of Rights.
“There was a need for it,” he said. “I learned that there’s a federal requirement that the kids have to be taught about the Constitution every year and I just thought that there was an opportunity there to teach something that has to be taught every year in a fun and engaging way.”
Art Savokinas, principal of the Martin F. Quinn Primary Center, said he reached out to Johnson through email and did research on his performance about the Constitution.
This past Monday was Constitution Day for the students, so Johnson’s performance tied in perfectly.
“It felt like a good fit to do it this week,” Savokinas said. “Our school planned a red, white and blue theme that we played up with signs around the school and, with us being the Patriots, it fits in with the school theme. As a former history teacher, something like this has a soft space in my heart.”
With this being his first performance in the Pittston Area School District, Johnson has no doubts about some day returning.
“I’d love to,” he said. “These kids are great. They’re adorable; they’re engaged and engaged to the point where I was able to work with them and not have to fight for control. I’ve worked with schools all over the country, and there’s different levels of behavior in kids and these were among the best.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher