Teacher invests time, talents in puppets | RecordCourier.com
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Teacher invests time, talents in puppets

by Merrie Leininger

He was working with a limited budget and limited time, but Scarselli Elementary School art teacher Michael Callahan seems to have hit upon the perfect art project for his kids.

“I’ve had teachers tell me they’ve never seen kids take to a project so much. Kids come in on their lunch, before school and even when they are off track,” he said.

What could these kids be so excited about? Puppets.

But it’s not just puppets, Callahan said, it’s a whole project. Students decided what story they wanted to tell and are creating the puppets, script and the backdrops for a play to be performed at the end of the semester.

The 4th-6th graders are making the most difficult puppets, marionettes. Third graders are making rod puppets, the 2nd graders are making masks and the 1st graders are creating hand puppets.

Callahan said he got the idea from an art book.

“Because it’s the first art class of the century, I wanted to do something cool that they would remember. I think most of them will remember it. Most kids come in and are working desperately to get it done,” he said.

Callahan said he believes when the project is complete, the students will be surprised that they pulled the whole production together themselves. He said he hopes to even have a Saturday morning matinee and invite the community.

With a $500 budget for six months, Callahan had to create a project for 700 kids, keeping in mind he has one hour a week with each student.

He spent most of the money on eye screws and wooden dowels for the marionettes, he said. Many items, including bags and bags of scrap material, were donated. Callahan spent hours in Hope Valley gathering dead wood for the marionettes’ bodies. He cut them up into 3,000 small pieces and drilled 15,000 holes for the screws which were given to him for a reduced cost by Home Depot.

The wire that connects the joints was recycled from the school’s phone system that was rewired last year.

Students made clay faces and used them as models for the papier-mche heads.

Now, the students are making costumes and painting faces on the 280 marionettes that are hanging around the art room.

Brandon Bernard, 11, a 5th grader, and Kirby Wigton, 10, a 4th grader, are two students making marionettes for their play about the first moon landing.

Kirby explained they were looking through a book of plays for an idea when the story “kinda jumped out at us.”

Brandon was shaping a space suit for Neil Armstrong by stapling the cloth together.

“I find staples much easier. This is a tough part. But we are going to try to make it have as much detail as possible,” he said.

Sami Johnson, 11, a 5th grader, is part of a large group planning a play about Peter Pan.

She was sewing a pink nightgown with little pearl buttons and lace around the bottom for Wendy.

“I used to sew. I have never designed anything before. I designed this by myself,” Sami said. She said she really liked the project. “Mr. Callahan is a really cool teacher.”

Nick Cargill, 10, a 5th grader, was making a green outfit for his marionette that would eventually be the crocodile that eats Captain Hook. He also had an interesting approach to making the costume by using a hot glue gun.

“It’s much easier if you just glue it. I might staple it if it doesn’t hold good. It has different colors of green because crocodiles have different kinds of green,” he said.