It's an amazing thing. The art teacher goes to the restaurant supply store, comes away with a thousand white paper bags (two sizes - one about kid lunch size and one a little smaller - just because) and whips one out in front of a group of short artists. I cheat a little, inserting my hand in such a way as to make a mouth of the folds with my fingers and ask in a theatrical, stage-whispery voice, "Whisper what you think of when you see a bag like this." Nearly every voice responds, "Puppets!" One literal child whispered, "Lunch" and another added, "Halloween candy!" but we have room for diverse opinions. There follows a brisk discussion about what kinds of figures make good puppets. Godzilla, my sister, dogs, cats, alligators, frogs, monsters are immediately offered up.
We stop for the obligatory "Remember - you have lots of choices to make and we don't want to make anything that will frighten a small child, make your grandmother break out in hives, or get the art teacher fired." and go on.
Nearly everyone dives in. As soon as we talk about how many different tools are available to make puppets with, kids split off into drawing, painting, collage, and 3D construction and go to it. I realize that my gentle admonition to choose scrap paper (we have a small mountain of it - ANYthing is possible with this many choices...) is being ignored. Nothing brings out the environmentalist in me more than a giant (all things are relative) green sheet of construction paper with two tiny eyeballs cut out of the center.
I growl softly, quietly put the whole sheets somewhere safe from hungry scissors, and watch as the kids start to use their imaginations AND the scraps. Yea!
What puppets are born? I'm astounded at the diversity that comes from these imaginations. We have alligators, kittens, little sisters, grandmothers, pigs, cows, horses, frogs, dragons, giant insects with movable mouth parts, robots, butterflies, video game characters (sigh), devils, angels, snakes, birds, and several critters that simply defy description.
It's been a great week. and the best part? Several of my third graders have returned to ask for additional bags - they're putting together puppet shows to perform for each other in their regular classes. They're excited and having a great time and their teachers just smile. Busy, engaged kids make for a great last week of school.