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Back when my eldest son was preparing for kindergarten, I was undecided upon which school he would attend. I went with a sorority sister to the local elementary school to check it out and start the needed paperwork should we opt for that choice. The kindergarten teacher had a love for the theatrical and you could tell that he loved story telling as his room contained hundreds of puppets on display. I think he had enough puppets to tell a different story for each day of school.
As a homeschooler with more limited space available to store items, I can not imagine amassing that kind of collection. However, I can see how using puppets can help to enrich the learning experience. I won’t argue that playful learning is often better retained than following along in textbooks and workbooks.
Puppetools is a website trying to engage educators in the use of puppets for learning. Along with research information (both print and audio files) and some hands-on suggestions, the site also features many examples of puppets. The featured puppets are not just by teachers as students are encouraged to make their own.
After watching a brief orientation video that extols the virtues of play in learning, you can explore the site a number of different ways. Clicking on the educators tab shows both public and educator resource topics. From here, you can find out about the backbone of your puppetmaking adventure – the ‘paper talker’ hinge. Once this step is mastered, you can truly get creative with the puppets you make.
There are a few patterns you can see without a subscription and then some more that are accessible once you are a subscriber. However, as I already mentioned the site has lots of pictures of students and teachers showcasing the puppets they’ve made. For someone needing just a spark of an idea, this site possesses a wealth of information. Just don’t expect lots of ready to print, cut and fold puppets to help you on your educational journey.
Beyond using puppets in your story telling adventures, the site has resources discussing the use of puppets in problem solving and communication as well. The science behind puppet play is another interesting resource for educators. One would think it intuitive that play is one way in which children learn, but I know there are some out there than need the “evidence” that it is worthwhile. The site also has a few flash videos specific for parents to watch as they integrate the use of puppets for learning in their home.
My Takehome on Puppetools
For the individual homeschool family, Puppetools may hold limited appeal. You can have a test subscription of 60 days access for $20. For many homeschool families, the 60 days of access is probably all you’d need.
However, the subscription option for a group is a more cost effective option. The group subscription is $99 for one year and up to 30 users. A really big homeschool group could offer this as a benefit to its members for about $2 per family each year. So long as you have at least 4 other homeschool families, you could have access for one year at the same cost (or lower if there are more families) as the 60 day trial. I doubt this is a resource I would have sought out or spent money on, but it could make a great ‘perk’ for a homeschool group membership.