From Jan. 4 to Jan. 11, Vermont Arts Council teaching artist and founder of the touring puppet company Puppetkabob, Sarah Frechette, conducted a residency for the Hinesburg Community School.

“Biography Puppets” gave students an accessible, hands-on activity to elevate this year’s informational reading unit: biographies with fine arts. Chosen for both their tactile and theatrical focus, marionettes were used to display rituals and ceremonies using string-operated figurines throughout history. To make theirs, students and community members collected and sorted through recyclable materials.

Prior to this residency the students worked with reading teacher Alyssa Wieland to research an important person of color in American history. The students then took their research and, together with Puppetkabob, learned to design forced perspective background scenes and performable string-operated puppets.

In the end, each finished marionette-flipbook combo highlighted the fifth-grade students’ research abilities, creative impulse and artistic styles.

During this residency, the fifth graders imparted their new puppet-making skills by helping three kindergarten classes create finger puppets, which were presented to their classes in a showcase as they supported and celebrated their friends. Between the two grades, 101 students took part in this residency.

Wieland helped to secure funding for the program.

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