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Puppet show entertains, teaches

Carie Green's class held a puppet show at the Children's Museum of South Dakota in December 2021
From left, SDSU students Macey Dunlap, Sioux Falls; Ellie Lusk, Wentworth; Cortney Pauling, Montevideo, Minnesota; and Madison Herrick, Austin, Minnesota, prepare before performing at the Children's Museum of South Dakota in Brookings.

The 36 students in Carie Green’s child development course did not expect part of the class to involve a puppet show.

Green, the Profilet and DeJong Family Endowed Director of Early Childhood Education, brought the idea of using puppets as classroom tools to South Dakota State University this fall semester after using them in her previous position at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“I believe it is important to challenge future teachers to utilize puppets in their classrooms,” Green said. “Puppets are a great interactive teaching tool for young children. Children respond to puppets more like a peer; thus, children are more likely to engage in a dialogue with a puppet than they would with an adult.”

A performance at the Children's Museum of South Dakota
A performance at the Children's Museum of South Dakota.

As a result, the students were assigned to develop a puppet show to promote healthy socio-emotional, cognitive or physical development in children. Shows were held at the Children's Museum of South Dakota and at the St. Thomas More Catholic School in December. Green plans to continue the assignment and is looking at adding locations.

“My initial reaction to the puppet show was excitement, and I admit I was a little nervous, too,” said Ellie Lusk, a senior from Wentworth. “I thought it was pretty cool we got to do this project, because I hadn’t done anything like it before. It also was a great way to get involved with kids in a classroom-type setting.

“My group performed on getting enough rest at night,” she continued, noting her group performed at both sites. “I learned kids love to be involved. The greatest reactions were when they were able to participate within the shows. I was surprised about how it went, mostly because I was nervous, but the kids were awesome."

Like Lusk, Madison Herrick, who is from Austin, Minnesota, admitted being nervous.

“Not only was I nervous to perform a puppet show, which is something I have never done, but I was also nervous that the children weren't going to enjoy it,” Herrick said. “It was stressful trying to come up with ways that we were going to keep the students engaged throughout the show. Once we performed, however, we quickly found that the students loved watching us perform.

“The best part of this assignment was being able to teach elementary students something that can help them in a fun and engaging way. It was fun to see the students interact with our puppet show and have fun while doing it. Not only was it an enjoyable experience for them, but they also learned something from it,” she continued, noting she will think about adding this presentation style for her future classrooms.

The students’ responses were what Green wanted to hear.

“This was the first time some of these students had ever done puppets, but overall, I believe the assignment was beneficial for both the college students and the children who watched the shows,” she said, adding her daughters, Juniper, Jade and Hallie, attended the Children’s Museum performance.

“The assignment certainly put some students out of their comfort zone,” Green continued. “I invited them to try on the puppet and try out different voices. I noticed that some were more eager to experiment with the puppet and others were reluctant.”

Lusk’s experience has her willing to add the feature to her future classes, depending on where she starts her teaching career.

“I got some puppets from my mom for Christmas because I had told her about the project,” she said. “Obviously depending on where I land for teaching, I would 100% incorporate puppets if I could and would encourage other teachers, too. I think it would be fun to have for a twist when reading books or just to present a new idea to students. It’s a great way to incorporate fun learning.”