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Escaping TV trying, but students survive

Megan Moser spent the night on the couch to avoid the sound.

John Fauske hung a curtain of blankets around his bed to shield his eyes from the screen.

And poor Douglas Benson wandered from room to room in his house to elude its grasp before he eventually barricaded himself behind the couch.

All this to escape the clutches of television.

The threesome, members of Darlene Evans' third-grade class at Notre Dame Interparochial School, struggled mightily to observe National TV-Turnoff Week, which officially ended Wednesday.

Megan and John had to get around the fact that siblings were intent on watching TV in the rooms where they slept. Douglas bounced from his bedroom to the living room to his mom's bedroom in search of silent space. He wound up behind the couch with a book about tigers, trying to ignore the noise.

The kids struggled not so much from the temptation _ which was great indeed because NBC featured Merlin smack in the middle of the observance _ as they did from the TVs that seemed as unavoidable as Married With Children reruns.

And no wonder. In the class of 27 students, 23 said their homes were hooked up to cable, eight said they had satellite dishes and everyone said their family had at least two TVs in operation.

What's more, four students said their families had seven TVs scattered about their homes. Ownership of three, four, five and six tubes was common. One girl, with six brothers and sisters, admitted with a straight face that her house was stocked with nine.

Yet, against all odds, Mrs. Evans' class apparently prevailed. A Times poll using the hands-in-the-air survey method showed that all 27 said they abstained from television.

Begun in 1994, National TV-Turnoff Week was created to bring attention to the vast amounts of time Americans spend in front of the tube.

TV-Free America, a non-profit group whose literature says it encourages Americans to cut their TV time as a means to enrich their lives and connect with their communities, estimates that more than 8-million people have participated.

So what fills the void when the TV is turned off?

Kids in Mrs. Evans' class of 8- and 9-year-olds said they spent more time with Mom and Dad. They exercised. They read books. And, believe it or not, some performed household chores.

"I found out there's more to do than watching TV," said Carrie Davidson, who read a book and tended to the tomatoes, cantaloupes and watermelons in the family garden.

John Hogland put together puzzles and played outside with his dad.

Scott Brumett, who just said no when his dad asked if they were going to watch Merlin, raked leaves and cleaned his room.

Aside from just avoiding TV, the kids were given a few special assignments as part of National TV-Turnoff Week.

They had to keep journals about their experiences, design and build their own board games and spend more time with other media, namely books and newspapers.

"I liked not watching TV because when you watch it you get attracted to it," said Jackie Szydlowski, who tried to help more around the house.

Although a third of the students in the class admitted they intended to indulge in a TV love fest at the conclusion of their broadcast fast, all but two said they would spend less time in front of the TV because of the experience.

"I think it was a very good thing," Mrs. Evans said. "I got a lot of positive notes from parents who said thank you."

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