Integrated Learning: G.O.D. Elementary's Puppet Show

Students Violet Warren and Ezrah Aaseby, accompanied by teacher and performer Rob Munoz, performed a duet about the virtue of patience.

On Wednesday, May 7th, the students of G.O.D. Elementary presented a puppet show to their parents, neighbors, grandparents, siblings and friends. The puppet show was the culmination of one of the first integrated projects that the teachers and students of G.O.D. Elem. have collaborated to complete.

We utilize project based learning to integrate the array of disciplines that elementary education encompasses, and to give them a unified theme within which to involve the students. In this way, students experience a cohesive integration within their various areas of study. For this particular project, the reading teachers focused on the concept of story, helping the students to create a story to tell, and then translate it into a script. Many hours were spent brainstorming, planning, imagining, and then practicing, working through dialogue to get it just right, with proper expression and enunciation. Many students memorized their entire scripts. They learned the responsibility that comes with working as a team, as they were each interdependent upon the others for a strong performance.

The building classes undertook the creation of the puppet show set, from art design to construction, taking into consideration the unique needs of our puppeteers, who ranged from 5 years old to 11 years old. Students felt the thrill of wielding a drill, as they constructed the frame that would become the set (Read More on "Building Fundamentals"). The final product was an imaginative, colorful puppet theater, complete with a tree topped with colorful leaves with a hollow trunk through which puppets could peer.

The visual arts classes researched styles of puppets, thumbing through book after book collected from our local public library, watching educational tutorials, and even creating “practice puppets” through clever puppet-themed apps on their iPads. All the students made sock puppets, as well as wooden spoon puppets, and several classes also created a marionette.

In writing classes, the students created handmade programs, complete with individualized artwork and a reflective description of the “why” behind this puppet show. Students took great pride in using their best penmanship, and put forth great effort to create a “keepsake” memento for their loved ones in attendance.

Students Elliott Davis, Merci Warren and Haley Smith applied careful attention to planning their segment of the puppet show. They divided up the responsibilities, developed characters, collaborated on the script, and then created puppets that fit within the framework they'd established. The result was a thoughtful, evocative story, well told through the medium of puppets.

The music classes offered intro music on the day of the performance, and several kindergarten African Percussion students accompanied the three soloists who performed during the show.

Project based learning (PBL) is not unique to G.O.D. Elementary. Other schools use it as well, in order to introduce students to “explore real world problems and challenges” (Source: Edutopia). Our implementation of thematic projects is unique, due in part to our educational approach  (Read more: Educational Philosophy), and also because of the roster of classes in which our students are enrolled. It is also another avenue by which we integrate the educational theory of Multiple Intelligences. The idea that students have different strengths and ways of taking in information finds great application in such a diversified method of teaching. Students with musical intelligence were able to take on extra responsibility, hone their skill and share it with the audience. Students with spatial intelligence took on a leadership role in the design aspect of the set, because they could “see” it. The fluidity of integrated projects allows for such creativity. No students are left out, but those with particular giftings are able to rise to meet the challenge at hand, which bolsters and enhances the educational experience of all children involved.

The puppet show project was a success, not because it culminated in a perfect performance, for that was never the goal. It was a success because the teachers of G.O.D. Elementary collaborated in order to serve the students in a creative way, to offer their students a chance to discover what their interests and talents might be. The students responded with unending enthusiasm, always willing to put in the work required. Our success is measured by the quality of the experience for students and teachers alike, and we all agree, it was worth the effort.