Puppet power

Posted by Community Relations staff on 5/29/2019


The sixth graders descended on the primary classroom and got right to work. Swiftly erecting a 5-foot frame, they hung black curtains and then disappeared within. The class quieted, waiting. Then suddenly, above the curtains, appeared two cheery, wide-mouthed puppets.

Stevens Elementary sixth graders Jonathan Aguirre, Meadow Loer, Abigail Howie, Hanna Taggart, Hayli Rios, Mahana Richards, Kimora Estrada and Nevaeh Jones make up the S.O.A.R. Puppeteer Program, whose focus is to provide lessons on social/emotional topics to younger students and to help create a positive school climate. S.O.A.R. stands for “safe, organized, act responsibly and respectful” – Stevens’ schoolwide expectations.

“Students respond so strongly to messages from their peers,” said Fondra Magee, Stevens counselor and puppet program facilitator. “I love the combination of peers and puppets. Puppets are powerful.”

Tuesday’s performance taught third graders about conflict resolution, “a fancy way of saying ‘settling arguments’,” the Muppet-like puppets explained. Using a pre-recorded lesson, they talked about the importance of understanding and sharing feelings, and tried mightily to get the class involved in a sing-along.

Chosen because of their experience as role models and their glowing teacher recommendations, the puppeteers have many reasons for why they joined the group.

“I wanted to be able to help teach lessons to little kids so they can learn to solve problems,” Abigail said.

“I really like to see kids smile,” added Hanna.

The puppeteers agreed that having to hold your arms above your head for the length of the show is one of the most challenging parts. Also, your thumb can get pretty sore from moving the mouth. Besides developing strong arms, they have also become skilled in displaying puppet emotion.

“You can use the rods to make the arms cover its eyes, or make the head nod to show sadness,” explained Mahana. “You can bounce the arms to show excitement. You really learn to exaggerate expressions.”

The group has done about a dozen shows so far, mostly to Stevens primary students, but also at Maplewood Gardens retirement home. Though their time as puppeteers is coming to a close with the end of school, the students are confident in the mark they will leave on Stevens.

“Some kids look up to older kids,” Neveah said, “so it’s nice to be able to be a positive role model for them.”

students smile   puppeteers and puppets