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Teaching with Puppets

Posted in Kids' Corner

Last fall, first graders at Basalt Elementary School became enamored with “Wormy,” the worm sock puppet that guided them through their soil unit in ACES Ed class. This spring, a caterpillar puppet named Crunch helped Kindergarteners at Aspen Elementary School with lessons in their insect unit. The students were thrilled to find that, just like the caterpillars they were observing live, Crunch the puppet also transformed into a butterfly! ACES educators constantly seek out new ways to make learning engaging and fun. Puppets are incredible tools to achieve this, especially with young students.

Retired librarian, children’s author, and puppeteer-extraordinaire Ann Sinton recently shared her knowledge about the art of puppeteering in a professional development workshop for ACES Educators. According to Ann, “Puppets are a way to reach painfully shy children. You can connect and converse with those children who otherwise would not speak.” 

The workshop featured many tricks of the trade and helpful tidbits that we’ve since incorporated into performances in our ACES Ed classrooms. First and foremost, you must make the puppet believable. Folks new to puppeteering tend to over exaggerated movements, yell, or attempt crazy accents. Slow, deliberate movements, whispers, or even a long pause can more effectively draw audience members to the edge of their seats. Puppeteers can also find ways to make the audience more invested in the story. Incorporating real-life personalities and scenarios into the performance, such as dropping the school principal's name, will help capture the attention of an audience. Puppets with specific mannerisms, a voice, and personality, like Wormy and Crunch, can become memorable characters, and even “friends” of children, thus furthering the educational experience. 

Following the workshop, ACES Educators have sought out ways to enhance puppeteering during in-school lessons and on field programs. Little Ranchers, our parent and child program at Rock Bottom Ranch, now introduces the content for the day with a puppet show. ACES even purchased a state-of-the-art puppet stage, which significantly adds to the puppet show experience! In the classroom, memorable puppets like Wormy and Crunch become educators themselves, providing students with engaging, tangible relationships to the content they are learning about. 

Whether you are an educator, parent, or simply someone with a message to share, you too can become a puppeteer! Although elaborate marionettes and stages are nice, a simple homemade sock puppet will do. You never know what you might teach through your puppet show, or what friendships you might help to build.

~ Kim Pedersen, ACES Educator