Throughout the second semester of the 2018-19 school year, sixth graders spent time reading and researching Hispanic, African, Indian and Chinese folktales and fairytales. They ended last year in fifth grade with a folktale and fairytale unit, acted on stage for families and friends, and now looped back to the topic to write a unique folktale in the manner of a certain culture, and present it for an audience using handmade rod puppets. The final Puppet Showcase combined art, English, Social Studies and Science classes.
Students worked in small groups to learn what folktale writing is all about and identified common themes and elements found in folktales around the globe. Groups narrowed down a culture they researched, and noted some common cultural themes they identified in stories they read.
The sixth graders were asked to ideate a simple story including a moral, a problem and a solution, including some of the common themes found in the culture that the group researched. Classes also brainstormed appropriate character development. The writing process continued from outlines, to three-paragraph drafts, to final edits.
Katie Adams, a puppet artist from from Make Believe Theater, visited and showcased her rod puppets as samples for the artistic portion of the project. Some students were concerned that her puppets were so professional looking, and that theirs would never measure up - or would take too long to create. Ms. Adams presented a workshop on how to build rod puppets like hers, and returned to spend a day in art class to guide the puppet building process with Mrs. Williams. Chargers built rod puppets from recycled materials over the course of a few weeks to represent the characters in their stories. Their math and engineering skills were tested as they took creative risks and their ideas became 3D, tangible objects.
In groups, students also created sets to serve as backdrops for their folktale puppet shows. Set design began in English class after detailed sketches of scenes were approved, and continued for about three weeks. Wiring of sets for lights or motion was overseen by Mr. Cruise in science class.
With puppets and sets complete, Katie Adams returned for a puppet manipulation workshop. Once the sixth graders were comfortable acting out their self-written, unique folktale with the puppets they had made, they presented their puppet shows to the Lower School community on one day and their families on another. The puppet showcase proved the students effectively explored design-thinking, collaboration, problem solving, storytelling, creativity, performing/public speaking and writing skills.
The following week, 23 sixth-grade puppeteers took their shows to the VA Community Rehabilitation Center to present for their residents.View more project photos and video clips here.