While the core of our Kids on the Block educational puppetry program empowers elementary students to disclose abuse and stand up to bullying, our puppeteers have also been brainstorming what else students could be powered to say if given a voice and venue to express it. Enter our new 9-week puppetry workshop at the Centre for Girls, which allows participants to crafts puppets and write scripts about issues and experiences they face in their own lives.

The mission at Centre for Girls (C4G) is “empowerment through expression”, and the puppeteers at Kids on the Block felt that our puppetry workshop was a perfect fit for their programming.  Ashley reached out to the Program Director at C4G, Sartura Smith, and asked if she would be interested in a partnership for a puppetry workshop pilot.  Ms. Smith is a former Champions employee and was the first-ever employee of Layla’s House as the lead Parent Educator.

So far the young ladies at C4G have written scripts about neglect, gossip, drug abuse, suicidal thoughts, and the value of confiding in a trusted friend.  They will begin crafting puppets soon and this 9 week project will conclude with a performance of these talented young ladies’ work. From here, Ashley hopes to bring the workshop to Boys and Girls Club summer programming and collaborate with Stageworks Theatre.

The idea began to take shape last Spring, when Kids on the Block was looking for ways to improve its outreach and scope. TD Bank generously provided a professional development grant to Program Coordinator, Ashley Lord, so that she could attend a 10 day puppetry making workshop in Massachusetts called the “New England Puppet Intensive.” This course allowed Ashley to work with David Lane an impressive puppeteer and one of the founding members of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop in Calgary, Alberta.

Ashley learned to craft puppet characters with various mediums and was interested in teaching these skills to students. With puppetry you can be any character you want no matter your gender, race, height, ability level, etc. This in mind, a workshop was developed to guide students through a process to write, direct, and create/construct their own puppet shows focused on social issues they are facing in today’s world.