Of poets and puppetry

HOUGHTON – Some cardboard, some glue, some recyclables, too. Add a bit of imagination, and that’s how puppets are born.

Or at least that’s how puppets were born Saturday, crafted by area first- through sixth-graders at the first of three puppet-making workshops at the Portage Lake District Library, as part of a Puppets and Poetry workshop co-hosted by the library, the Copper Country Reading Council and the Michigan River of Words.

The event will culminate with a puppet show and poetry reading April 12 at the Copper Country Mall as part of the Kiwanis Family Fun Day event.

“I think it’s a great idea to turn recycling into a story, a story into a show,” said Karen Colbert, who brought four of her own children and a friend to the workshop.

“We’re homeschoolers, so we’re always looking for good ways to incorporate learning into everything.”

Her son Baron, 5, was proud to show off his in-progress creation.

“It’s going to be a horse. I’m going to name him Rafty,” said the prospective puppeteer.

Saturday’s workshop focused solely on puppet making, but the next two events will incorporate poetry and environmental awareness, as well as more time to work on the puppets.

According to a PLDL release, Michigan Technological University graduate student Jennifer Pelto will be on hand Saturday, reading poems that will get students thinking before they’re given time to write their own verses describing their puppets.

“Reading is not just an entity in itself. It’s embedded in other things,” said Rosemary Grier of the Reading Council and the Michigan Reading Association, explaining why combining puppets and poetry can be such a powerful reading tool.

“I think kids have really creative minds. When they’re allowed to create without specific instruction, it leads to masterpieces.”

On March 29, Tech student Melissa Michaelson will talk to students about the impact throwing things away has on the environment.

Last year, Michaelson created a display of 600 water bottles, and she’ll be showing students slides from that project.

“It was a work of art, but also a profound environmental statement,” said library community programs director Chris Alquist.

Alquist said children are not required to have attended previous workshops to attend either of the upcoming ones, though they would not be able to participate in the April 12 performance without a puppet.