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Where character fits like a hand in a glove
A guidance counselor uses puppets to help children get a grasp on life.
By Times Staff Writer
Published November 14, 2007
Quintan Foster controls "Sammy" in a puppet play put on by fourth- and fifth-graders Nov. 7 at West Zephyrhills Elementary.
[David Degner | Times]
[David Degner | Times]
Ayrillyn Pierre narrates the play, which promotes respect and responsibility.
Editor's note: Character Education puppet shows have been part of the curriculum at West Zephyrhills Elementary School for about five years now, starting when Valerie Macleod began as a guidance counselor there. Here, in her own words, is her take on the program:
When I started, I had no experience with puppets, script writing or anything else related to these productions. At the time we were trying to come up with something neat for the primary classes to see during Red Ribbon Week.
I had discovered a puppet in one of my file drawers that had been left by a previous guidance counselor, and our resource officer found several more. I wrote a short script about drugs, found an old 4-foot wooden stage, and after finding children to be the puppeteers, we managed to put the show on. Much to my surprise, it was received very well, and with Mrs. Keene's (the principal's) support the puppet program was started.
I try to make each script cover either a character education theme such as this fall's show on responsibility or last spring's show on respect. I have also written scripts that cover other themes such as tolerance, human kindness and bullying.
The puppet shows provide children with a different way to enhance instruction they have received in class. The children come to the shows knowing about the themes presented, but thanks to the enchanting and memorable way the puppets bring these themes to life, the learning is further cemented. Years after presenting a show, I will hear from various children how well they remember that show and what they learned from it.
In addition, the experience of being a puppeteer increases the children's self-esteem, their understanding of the value of teamwork, and the importance of working toward a goal, even when it is not immediate. The benefits in being a puppeteer are clearly seen well beyond the show's ending. This makes me wish every child could have an opportunity to be a puppeteer, which is sadly not possible given time and resources.
For those who have been puppeteers, the experience has been meaningful and lasting.