HOT SPRINGS - The Hot Springs Elementary housed 387 new handmade puppets by the end of last week after visiting puppeteer Markie Scholz of Spearfish showed the students how to make them. Scholz is part of the South Dakota Arts Council’s Touring Arts program. Touring Arts bring performances and exhibitions to South Dakota communities by providing matching funds for the artistic fees.

Scholz performs puppet shows with a message and shows students how to create their own puppets. She covers a number of topics about character in her shows and presents problems that her audiences help to solve. The program here was about bullying prevention.

“I give the students strategies on how to deal with bullies,” she said. “It’s especially hard now with cyberbullying.”

Her strategies include standing up with someone who is being bullied; ask the person why they are being mean; and talk to an adult, and if that adult is not interested find another adult who is.

During the week she visited each of the classes and helped the students make puppets. In Pre-K they made paper puppets; first and second grades made soft puppets without mouths; and third and fourth grades made sock puppets with mouths. She told the students who made puppets with mouths that the number one rule is that the puppets cannot bite. She warned them that if any of the puppets bit someone else, that puppet would have a one-minute timeout, which meant the student could not work on their puppet during that time.

Scholz started working with puppets with her sister 47 years ago and since then has traveled and performed all over the United States and parts of Canada. She holds a masters degree in curriculum instruction. She makes most of her puppets and has a friend who makes some for her. “I love every part of this,” she said. “You should find something you love to do every single day.”

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Puppets are one of the best ways to teach children, she said. “I find kids are miraculous,” she said. “The imagination and wonder of kids are beyond belief.” She added that kids need to learn to trust, to experiment and wonder, and to use their own imaginations.

She sets up her own places to perform. Sometimes she visits two places in a day and sometimes she is at the same place for a week, a month or may visit different schools in a section of the same town. She has seven shows available each year. One show follows the theme of the library’s summer program. She does no recorded shows. Her website is: dragonsaretooseldom.com.

She enjoyed the week at the Hot Springs Elementary. This was her second time performing here. She was especially impressed with all the art and ideas displayed on the walls in the teachers’ rooms and in the halls. “It’s a wonderful school,” she said. “I enjoyed working with the teachers and the students.”

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