Cambridge Outdoors

playing, learning, and being outdoors in Cambridge, Mass.

Support Wildlife Ambassadors (and get them a better name)

The name is corny, sure. But the concept is solid.

The Cambridge Wildlife Puppetry Project wants to pilot a program for a handful of high schoolers to provide hands-on training in puppetry and a chance to carry out direct, informal environmental education with younger children.

Walk/Ride Day Eve Celebration: Magazine Beach Cambridge MA

High school and middle school students in Cambridge  with our puppets and costumes at a Magazine Beach event. Photo courtesy of Bimal Nepal.

The wildlife ambassadors program will give 9th- through 12th-graders, also known as puppeteers-in-training, two sessions with a professional puppeteer and actor. We’ll pay a small team of trained teens who enter the pilot program a stipend to operate the wild animal giant puppets of the Cambridge Wildlife Puppetry Project at parades and “roamabouts,” like the Cambridge Science Festival, the River Festival, and other outdoor places where biodiversity education can benefit from the kid appeal of a ten-foot high local bird.

Have you seen the CWPP’s Great Blue Herons, the new Giant Alewife puppet, our Eastern Cottontail with fashion-forward ears, and our unwieldy, homely and mischievous chipmunk? Read more about the CWPP and its events, trading cards, and roamabouts.

trio.Danehy.Park

CWPP uses costumes as well as giant puppets. Here: Blue-fronted Dancer (damselfly), Red-winged Blackbird, and Little Brown Bat at Danehy Park Day, where children received free Cambridge Wildlife Trading Cards.

In fact, we’ve had high schoolers acting as puppeteers, thereby earning community service hours (a National Honor Society requirement), for several years now.  We know from working with them that there is the potential to make the intersection of puppetry and environmental education even better, by raising the bar with a commitment to a regular program of performances, providing training from a professional puppeteer, and paying a stipend.

Our fledgling Wildlife Ambassadors program needs your help.  We’ve applied for a local cultural council grant for some of the funding for the program. Our plan, in cooperation with VPA faculty, is to hold a training session in January 2018 at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School’s dance studio, after school. We’ll offer a workshop on movement training with our puppets to the high school’s dance, theater, and tech students and then invite them to apply for enrollment in the program.

What’s not to love about teenagers playing the role of informal environmental educators in the city they live in, for younger children and for families, with a strong dose of the arts?

If you’d like more information, send your questions by email to cambridgewildlifepuppets ((at)) gmail ((dot)) com. Meanwhile, consider supporting our work with a donation. Checks may be made out to the CWPP’s fiscal sponsor, the Cambridge Arts Council Fund, Inc.* Whether your donation is  $10, $15, or $100, your contribution will help us launch the wildlife ambassadors program in 2018. Thank you for helping our giant animals get matched with young puppeteers, and for supporting young people’s ability to build skills in an art form that’s not generally available to this age group.

Oh—and whether or not you chip in, send us a suggestion for a new name for the program.

*Please write “Cambridge Wildlife Puppetry Project” on the memo line of your check.  Mail to Cambridge Arts Council Fund, Inc., 344 Broadway, Cambridge MA 02139.