Monday, December 22, 2008

Play is the work of all children. Parents know their child learns, processes, and discovers their world through play. Unfortunately, as children grow and mature time for learning through play is often squeezed out by other activities. Puppetools, the brain child of Jeffrey Peyton, is a website designed to help teachers rekindle the power of play in education. The site assists teachers "master the principle of play” through the world of puppets. Peyton’s culmination of 30 years of research, resources, experimentation, and examples of puppet and play based education are all available on his membership only website, Puppetools.

Puppetools offers a brief showcase of videos on their homepage to assist potential customers in fully comprehending the concept of the site. The 9 videos provided demonstrate puppets in action in the classroom. I found them interesting and inspiring as ideas began to form in my mind about future puppets for our homeschool.

Once membership to the site is established visitors will have access to specialized teacher, parent and student sections. A video library to watch puppets in action in classrooms all over the world, a members-only forum, and 37 puppet patterns are all included on the site. The video library has 295 samples of teachers using puppets and 118 samples of students' puppets. It is quite extensive.

I found a parent teacher area of the site very encouraging and helpful for the homeschool teacher. A series of three brief videos detail the purpose and philosophy of using Puppetools. Peyton describes one purpose of puppet making to help build creativity in your kids. An example given was to make a puppet for your child’s favorite storybook to read along with him.

Another video I saw demonstrated an entire 7th grade class reviewing atomic structure with various puppets. Patty Proton, for instance, powered by one student shared with the class the properties of protons. The end of the video revealed the entire class with their puppets singing a newly written song, "The Atoms Family" (click, click) I thought this demonstrated well that puppets can aid all ages of student in developing creative presentations and other public speaking skills.
The building block of all puppet design used by Puppetools is the paper hinge. The hinge is fashioned through several simple folds of a standard piece of construction paper. Members to the site can watch a 30 second video demonstrating the folds needed to make the paper hinge or download a one page PDF file with written directions. Puppetools encourages use of simple materials like construction paper, glue and markers when making puppets. They believe simplicity will lend itself to more opportunities for children to explore their creativity and continued interest in the creation of puppets in the future.

Membership to the site is available on a 60 day trial basis for $20. A one year membership for up to 30 users is available for $99. The one year membership would be ideal for a co-op or school. Teachers can train themselves to give workshops to others and earn money selling Puppetools subscriptions. The Puppetools affliate program is offered to interested parties for a $25.00 fee.

For those with doubts that puppet play really does lead to greater creativity and more productive education, Peyton shares encouragement by stating, “the secret to play based learning is to just get out of the way and let it happen……..allow your students to lead you to more playful learning”.

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