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In the world of education, there are many ideas.
How was that for a deep statement? This review posed quite a challenge to me. I keep telling myself that I have been guilty of judging this site with the prejudice of a genetic fallacy: determining something is wrong based on its origin. But I can’t get away from the judgment, anyway. To me, if a product comes out of a fundamentally incorrect philosophy, it probably won’t be helpful, useful or ultimately instructive to my child. So with Puppetools, I couldn’t really get past all the sermonizing done in explanation of the why’s of puppetry. I’ll explain.
WWW.Puppetools.com is a website by Jeffrey Peyton. He’s an educator who has determined that children are in need of more play, and a playful approach to learning. I do agree with him about the need for play, but the red flags start going up for me when you start talking about the need for play in learning. Now, I’m just a mom. I don’t have any special educational degrees. And I’m not saying that children should sit in a chair in front of a workbook all day doing times tables. HOWEVER, I have a strong suspicion that the problem we have with our educational system today is not that kids haven’t been playing enough! Puppetools is an extensive site, which has obviously taken years and much laborious work to create. Mr. Peyton obviously really, really, really believes in what he is trying to promote. I . . . don’t.
Here are a few quotes on the website which I found both instructive and disturbing.
"Play is what separates us humans from the reptiles and lizards, who merely lay eggs and let their young alone to fend for themselves."
Hmmm. And I thought all this time that it was being created in the image of God that separated us from the reptiles and lizards (among other things!)
"If our schools were wisely and practically based on the principal of play, many of the problems and challenges that plague our classrooms and harm our kids would recede like floodwater. . . "
Really? I was thinking it was more like if our schools were based on the principals of learning God’s Word and His will and obeying it, with children trained that they were created with a purpose and responsibility toward their Creator, *that* would stem the tide.
"A child nurtured through play is more receptive to learning, and more able to absorb the jolts and challenges of factory education."
Since my kids aren’t being exposed to the jolts and challenges of factory education, I guess I don’t really see the need to make a paper George Washington hand puppet to help them absorb them.
"Puppets are known to exert an extraordinary force upon children. Adults are also deeply affected by their gravitational pull when playing with or using them. The property of play is the primary element involved in the hand puppet’s power. But there is more. The pet-like appearance, the ‘little’ voice and expressive movement signals safety, disarms, and elicits humor, expressiveness and articulation. The universality with which children embrace the puppet archetype is a reflection of its power to engage the full spectrum of brain resources. Possibly the most elemental art form, the hand puppet represents a bio-media made for communicating with children and reaching young minds of all ages. When an adult presents a puppet to a group of children or young adults, the best side of human nature and the full constellation of brain resources is called forth—attracting movement, surprising spontaneity, playfulness, imagination, communication, socialization—and a bond between the young and the adult. Higher order language and critical-symbolic thinking are primed by the inclusion and influence of the brain’s ‘’first mate’, namely the human hand. Learning is an activity present in all life forms, but is most refined and pronounced in mammals, established by movement, shaped by the hand, organized, fostered, and propelled by the invention of play and nursing—the evolutionary foundation of learning.
We would not be human were it not for the hand. In the words of E.O. Wilson, “The brain bears stages of 400 million years of trial and error, traceable by fossils, molecular homology in nearly unbroken sequence, from fish to amphibian to reptile to primitive mammal to our immediate primate forerunners. In the final step the brain was catapulted . . . "
Sigh. Like I said, this is a tough review to write. I just flat out disagree with the man’s entire theory. Makes it tough to swallow anything he tells me!
The website has multiple links to downloads which are very simple to click on. (There, I said something positive!) Clicking on "Orientation to Puppetmaking" produces a download of 12 pages of . . . puppet theory, and apparently aims to make the educator feel like "they can do it!" The video download of the "talking hinge" Mr. Jeffreys advises you to use in order to make puppets is quite instructive and simple and perhaps the best part of the website.
Mr. Peyton is obviously a passionate man who wants to help children. That’s nice. I do believe kids need to play; that’s why we have a big backyard, swimming pool and swingset, bikes and fishing poles, books and a trampoline which we regularly use for family reading time! We even have a puppet or two around here . . . somewhere. Here’s the cost breakdown for a subscription to his site:
1) $20.00 INDIVIDUAL SUBSCRIPTION: Designed for individual users. Get complete access to all resources for a full year. Upgrade to the group subscription any time for $79.00. Ideal for individual users / households.
2) $99.00 GROUP SUBSCRIPTION (up to 30 users) Designed to be shared among small & large GROUPS such as families, home schoolers, classrooms, scout troops, 4-H, entire schools, and non-profit organizations with educational missions. This is the best way to derive the greatest benefit as the group subscriptions as up to 30 people can share the cost and enjoy the ride. Need access for more users? No Problem — you can simply add more users anytime in lots of 50 or 100 and the cost can be as low as $2.00 PER USER. The purchaser (account owner) may assign up to 15 administrators per account –all users receive access to all resources for a full year.
* 1 year to train and master Puppetools – the "Language of Play"
* Access Puppetools’ online Educator Work Area
* Access Puppetools’ exclusive practitioner video library
* Access extensive research on play and education
* Access hundreds of puppet images, concepts, and patterns
* Access readings from the 200 page Puppetools Manual
* Access our global community forums – learn with teachers around the world
* Put Puppetools to work in just days–for many it’s just overnight
* Learn fast, flexible puppet design and construction–in just minutes
* Discover how a single paper hinge creates a limitless resource
* Engage playful, energized conversation for lessons and activities /all grades
* Use puppet know-how and techniques without acting, scripts, or theater
* Effectively harness Play and spark motivation, participation, and receptivity
* Discover the deep impact of play on students and teachers
The $20 family option is a new one Mr. Peyton added as part of the TOS Review process. If you’re looking for some nice patterns and plans for puppets, if you’re already a puppet afficianado and would like more ideas on how to use them at home, if you’re a public school or Sunday School teacher looking to capture the attention of a bunch of kids at a time, or even if you’re a homeschool mom who can just jump right over philosophy and find the good in a product (lucky thing!) you might just love it!
And there you have it. Find out all about Puppetools at www.puppetools.com .