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Students at the Moretown Elementary School listened intently to two master puppeteers present Troubling Times, a new program by Puppets in Education (PiE) designed to help children deal with the stress of Irene’s devastation.
First- and second-grade students paired with “buddies” from fifth and sixth grades to attend one of the first of three performances on October 19.
Master puppeteer and Moretown Elementary School parent Karen Sharpwolf and master puppeteer Karen Newman called on students to share feelings and experiences associated with the flood.
Sharpwolf said, “While there has been a tremendous response by people throughout the state and the nation to rebuild roads, bridges and buildings, people need help to repair themselves emotionally. This is especially true for children.”
Sharpwolf described the extensive damage to Moretown by Hurricane Irene as one of two characters in the Troubling Times performance; she asked students if the mud was smelly in Moretown after the flood. Some said, “Yes.”
Moretown saw significant damage to roads, bridges and town buildings. The school was flooded and the septic system overflowed and contaminated the building. After, cleanup crews worked around the clock to rip up carpeting and remove sheetrock and remove toxins and mold before students could return to the building.
“My daughter began second grade on field trips and in a ‘tent classroom.’ The teachers and staff, clad in red tie-dye T-shirts greeted the children with smiling faces. One morning, Jon Gailmor brought me to tears while he sang ‘You can’t keep a good town down’ to the children, who were sitting on blue tarps in the baseball field, while the environmental service crews worked busily, and huge, full dumpsters sat in the parking lot. As I listened to his music, I realized how healing art can be,” Sharpwolf said.
She then wondered if PiE could help to heal communities with its performances and brought the idea to her PiE colleagues the next day. Staff members brainstormed how to provide comfort and support to children confronted with the aftermath of this disaster.
Troubling Times, a script about coping with crisis, is now available for those schools across Vermont that have been affected by the storm.
In the program, puppet characters that have experienced a flood in their hometown process what has happened in order to reassure children, providing information on how children can get help with the feelings associated with disaster and trauma.
The program includes a 15-minute puppet skit followed by a “pass the puppet” circle.
The characters acknowledged how upsetting the flood was, discussed different ways that adults and children have and are still reacting to it, and taught how to help oneself and others in difficult times. This program is designed for students in kindergarten through grade six
With the help of individual and business sponsorships, PiE is offering this program for free in all Vermont communities affected by the flood.
For more information about how to support this effort, or to schedule a presentation, please contact Puppets in Education at (802) 860-3349. For more information visit