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How Wooden Puppetry Inspires Young Children.. and their teachers!

Updated: 2 days ago

For two years, Adriana Hollenbeck, Early Childhood educator and Head of The Experiential School at Shorecrest Preparatory School, has been learning as much as she can about the language of wood and wooden puppetry. "After carving table-top puppets, glove and rod puppets, simple and more complex marionettes I witnessed the joy felt by the children. There was no way back." Adriana participated in our 8-month Online Automata Course last year, and this summer she came to Prague for our June Marionette Carving workshop. What did she take away?

Adriana in the Plzen Puppet Museum

As an Early Childhood educator, I am part of a world inhabited by small children, their stories, and a lot of fantasy. On any given day, we talk about dragons and mermaids, unicorns, fairies and witches, a sky that could have a rainbow, a rocket, aliens, or shooting stars. Children crave stories. The minute I started carving wooden puppets, the children and I made room for other small creatures. Puppetry is filled with possibilities for Early Childhood.

A wide range of disciplines and talents is needed to breathe life into the characters we wish to create. I knew there was something very special about the traditional style of the Czech puppeteers, and I embraced the challenge with an open mind and growth mindset.

For three weeks at Puppets in Prague, we brought our ideas to life under Mirek's guidance, surrounded by other experts. Before we knew it, limbs were folding, torsos were sitting and eyes were staring back at us.

That tree that became blocks had now turned into characters ready for an audience, filled with stories to be told.

A different part of the experience, this one led by Leah and Johana, included trips to Plzeň, Hradec Králové and Kutná Hora, where we met artists and saw more than 20 puppet shows for children and adults, visited museums and enjoyed learning about Czech puppetry.  By the end of the course we had taken trams, trains, the metro, buses and we were feeling like locals.

Learning should always be about bringing your best to a collective experience and creating space for what's new. I thank Mirek and Leah for providing us with the safe space to ask questions, make mistakes and take risks.

The language of wood is one to be spoken with the heart. And sharp chisels too, of course!

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