Puppet Theatre in Experiential School

by: Adriana Hollenbeck, Head of The Experiential School of Tampa Bay
Throughout the different stages of my career as an educator, it was important to me to understand that we are all lifelong learners, which means that being a teacher does not take away opportunities to continue to grow and take risks.

I've been a "maker" since before this was even a word used to describe people who enjoy getting their hands busy. Being a maker allowed me to see children better because I was able to connect with them through different mediums.

Last year I broke my ankle and I was home a lot, resting my bones and hoping they healed properly. One day an advertisement popped up on my social media: a beautiful image from Worlds of Puppets by Bernd Ogrodnik and an invitation for a series of free webinars. It only took a few seconds and I was in!

I met Bernd and his team. Bernd is a German puppeteer who lives in Iceland. His workshop looks a lot like something that you would find in a movie. Above all, I fell in love with his commitment to storytelling and natural materials. His respect for wood and his appreciation of nature took the experience to a different level. So I bought a few carving knives, basswood, carving gloves (as one does…) and I got started.

I had no idea what I was doing, but it didn't take long for this maker to fall in love with the puppetry world. I was determined to find ways to incorporate this new medium into The Experiential School.

After the free webinars I signed up for The Academy of the Wooden Puppet. Every month I learn a new technique; and every puppet inspires me to continue learning and finding ways to bring this joy back to Shorecrest.

After Mrs. Briggs' children started performing "Goldilocks and The Three Bears" in their classroom, I found the inspiration I needed to create the first full ES puppet performance! I started carving the bear puppets in October. I also created the set and wrote the script, an adaptation in which Little Bear tries to convince Mama Bear to transfer him from Honeycrest to Shorecrest. He is friends with the Chargers’ stuffed animals.

The teachers didn't hesitate when I asked them if they wanted to perform, so we took a risk and we put on a super fun show together. Ginger, Nina, Merry, Takeya and I brought our A-game, and the kids loved every minute of it!

My long term goal is to continue learning about puppetry and putting as much emphasis as possible on the performing arts at this level. We wish to inspire children – because who knows when they will start making their own puppets and sharing their stories with a world in so much need of happy endings?

Find many more photos of the puppets and the show here.


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St Petersburg, FL 33703
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Shorecrest Preparatory School is a private, non-sectarian, coeducational, college preparatory day school for students preschool through high school, located in St. Petersburg, Florida.