Sunday, April 17, 2005

Materials vs. Imagination

I talked about this before but the issue of puppets and the materials that are used to build them has many different areas of debate. I have already explained that the costs of a puppet has less to do with the material costs and more to do with the time and labour involved in building them.

As a teacher I always try to incorporate puppetry into my classroom in one way or another. A while back I was doing a puppet building unit with my grade 1 students. I believe in free creativity when building puppets so I taught my students about materials, reusing materials and about thinking of the different body parts they would need for their puppet character and then encouraged them to use their imaginations to help make their puppets.

The issue of materials struck a very interesting idea for me. You see my students were disappointed that they would not have access to all of the fabrics, polyfil, craft eyes, etc., that I used for my puppets. Instead they had a giant box of every imaginable material that your could think of. My students were unconvinced that even with all of the "stuff" in the box that they could make a cool puppet. I made them a deal. I said that I would work along side them to make a puppet and use the same materials that they had.

I was in charge of the hot glue gun (can't let those little fingers get hurt) and my helpers walked around and answered questions for the students. I would glue the requests from my students and in the down time I would cut and glue materials for my own puppet.

I pointed out to my students the huge quantity of dark grey foam in the box. Some students use the foam others focused on boxes for heads and bodies.

As I built my puppet I had students ask me questions like "What are you going to use the styrofoam tray for Mr Chen?". My answers were very straight forward "I will use them for the top and bottom parts of the mouth." and I was often met with a smile and the little student would run off (actually walk...and I do make sure they are careful with the scissors) and start making a mouth of their own.

When all was said and done the students had made some of the most amazing puppets. I wish I had taken pictures but during the actual building I just was so immersed that I forgot to. What I do have is the grey gargoyle puppet that I built out of foam, stryofoam meat tray, hot glue, scraps of fabric and two round plastic toys that I cut, oh and some whiteout and black permanent marker for the eyes.

At the end of everything my students understood that it really is not the materials that you use. I mean really puppets are just foam, fabric and plastic. It is much more essential that you never forget to use the most important element for puppet building. Your imagination.