What began with a children’s story that Audrey McGregor read aloud to her grade six students at Trinity Christian School in Burlington ended with a project inspired by the message it drove into the hearts of the students—that we are all created in the image of God, and that everyone is special. It was a message that the students wanted to share with as many others as they could.
The book that Ms. McGregor shared with her class was Max Lucado’s book Best of All, which tells the story of a popular girl in Wemmicksville (a village of wooden puppets) named Bess Stoval. In this book, Bess is famous for being famous. “When it comes to Wemmicks, she’s the best,” they say. Everyone in the village wants to join her Wonderful Wemmicks Club, but only the Wemmicks that are made of maple—the best wood from the best forest—can join. Punchinello, another wooden puppet in the village, can’t join, as he is made of willow. “Willow is weak wood,” says Bess. “No one wants to be a willow.” Everyone looks down on him, even his friend Lucia. In the story, Punchinello learns a valuable lesson when Eli the Woodcarver helps him to see that he is special because the Maker made him, and that the Maker chose his wood for a very important reason.
The reaction of the students to the message in this and other Max Lucado story books was surprising to Ms. McGregor, and she decided to hone in on their passion by creating a project that allowed students to synthesize what they had learned from the books to teach others what it means to be an image bearer of Christ.
“I love projects,” shared Ms. McGregor. “I loved them when I was in school, and I am generally more passionate about my teaching when I can use projects to learn. Having said that, as someone who is big on assessment and instruction being closely linked, I wanted to be sure that the project didn’t get away from specific learning targets.”
The learning targets for this particular project were created collaboratively between Ms. McGregor and her students, in response to the question, “What does it mean to be created in God’s image?” Students were challenged to look at various story elements to help [them] infer and make connections to a story’s theme and message.
With this challenge in mind, the grade six class decided that the best way to deliver their message would be to create a puppet show. Students were divided into groups of four or five, and they set about writing scripts that were based on the themes they had read about in Max Lucado’s story books—telling the message they wanted to convey to their audience.
[caption id=”attachment_12464” align=”aligncenter” width=”960”] Student-created puppet waves for the camera[/caption]
We chose the book we liked the best, and then we tried to make it into a modern day script,” shared Aaron. “We wanted to try to get a good message out to show [others] more about God’s love for us.”
Gabby, another grade six student, added, “We wanted [the message] to be about the fact that God is with us, even in the hardest times.”
Collaborating on this part of the project posed a few challenges for some students, especially those who enjoyed working independently on creative writing projects.
“It was fun to write a script,” stated Jacob, “but also challenging because not everyone always agreed on what to write.”
Juliana agreed. “It was difficult at times because everyone had different ideas, and we had to put them together.”
To prepare her students for the writing process, Ms. McGregor had her students participating in literary circles to discuss the elements of short stories, as well as reading strategies, character development, points of view, and the types of conflicts that occur in literature.
“It was important for [the students] to know the literacy skills well—learning skills of inferring and synthesizing are key,” Ms. McGregor articulated. “I took a considerable amount of time planning the project and looking at the curriculum expectations that I wanted the project to meet…but it was not so tightly planned that there wasn’t room for moments along the way where I had to tweak my plans.”
Making the puppets was the highlight of the project for most of the grade six students. Part of the challenge was to match the appearance of their puppet with the character they had created in their script.
“My favourite part of the project was definitely making the puppet,” Christiana shared. “It was fun to create a character in a story.”
[caption id=”attachment_12447” align=”aligncenter” width=”960”] Students show the puppets they created for their play.[/caption]
“I decided what my puppet would look like when my group was writing the script,” recounted Ruby. “Our script explained my puppet to be shy, so I made him look shy and conservative. I decided to name [the puppet] Bob because it’s a simple name and my puppet has a simple character.”
Clare also described how she chose what her puppet would look like. “I wanted to try to make it look like a dancer. I made a bun out of yarn and put an accessory over top of it.”
“I named it Emma,” she added, “because my parents were going to name me Emma and I love the name. I wanted to make her bubbly and friendly and kind to people, even to the people who weren’t being kind to her.”
Ms. McGregor was excited to see the results of the hard work her students had put into creating beautiful work, while incorporating a mastery of the knowledge and skills that came along with the project.
“I enjoyed the creative process, and seeing what the kids came up with in the writing of the scripts and in the creation of their puppets,” she recounted. “The project covered a ton of language expectations, as well as some history and art requirements. I think it went very well, given some of the challenges we experienced.”
[caption id=”attachment_12460” align=”alignleft” width=”300”] Advanced Math students plan ideas for creating the stage for the puppet shows[/caption]
[caption id=”attachment_12454” align=”alignleft” width=”300”] The stage that students created for the plays.[/caption]
One of those challenges, specifically, was the building of the puppet theatre. This part of the project was assigned to four of the advanced Math students in the class, who spent time drawing, planning, measuring, purchasing materials, and putting together a portable puppet theatre.
“We made a computer document with a list of materials that we needed, and created a picture of what we wanted it to look like with the measurements and materials and everything,” Jacob described.
“For the structure, we just kept improvising—we’d try one thing, and if it didn’t work we had to try another way to make it work the way we wanted it to,” shared Aaron.
Now that the puppets and the theatre have been completed and their scripts have been memorized, students in Ms. McGregor’s class are excited to share the plays that they have worked hard to put together. They plan to present their puppet plays to the rest of the students at their school after the March Break, and the class is open to new opportunities to share their plays with schools, church groups, and other organizations. The message that they hope to convey to others is one that they are certain will make all their hard work worthwhile.
[caption id=”attachment_12461” align=”aligncenter” width=”960”] Students practice their puppet show for the class.[/caption]
“The end goal of the project was that [students] really synthesized what they had learned from the Max Lucado books, from scripture, and from what they know about life as a grade six student, to create a script that can teach other kids about what it means to be an image bearer of Christ,” shared Ms. McGregor. And she believes they’ve done this well.
“We have three tag words at Trinity Christian School: Believe, Belong, and Become,” she added. “I think this project fit in well to each of these aspects, because it touches on what we believe, it recognizes that we belong to a community of learners working together, and it points toward who we want to become as disciples of Christ in our communities.”
If you are interested in inviting the grade six class from Trinity Christian School to present their puppet plays at your school, you can contact Audrey McGregor by email at firstname.lastname@example.org