Kitwanga is a small Northern community that has faced extreme economic difficulties in the past with saw mills closing and unemployment rates up to 90% in recent years. As a result, Kitwanga Elementary School has made building students’ resiliency the schools primary focus. One teacher started a cross-grade puppet theatre program as a way of further strengthening students’ social and emotional skills. They used a Northern Connections Grant to purchase a set of puppets and sound equipment. Students from Kindergarten to grade 7 were then invited to take part in workshops taught by a puppeteer, and practices in lead-up to a final performance for the community.
What was the impact of the project? With the initiation of the puppet theatre program, teachers reported increased student engagement with school, cooperation and commitment, and, perhaps most importantly, a more developed sense of self-worth and enthusiasm about their abilities. Students reported feeling excited to go to school, interested in building their skills, and committed to getting along with others, following directions and having fun while being creative. Puppet theatre practices were sometimes held up to five days a week at students’ request! The teacher who ran the puppet theatre program reflected that the program’s success relied heavily on students’ commitment, help from outside the school, and support from administration and staff to build the show, encourage students to participate, and be flexible with having equipment in shared spaces for weeks at a time.