Stefanie Abbey, Art Teacher
Eve Davis, Librarian
High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety
Jamaica, New York
Sesame Street has used puppets to teach children to share, be kind and show empathy for others for over fifty years. And that’s why teacher Stefanie. Abbey decided to use “muppet” like puppets to engage her students in a special unit focused on social tolerance. In preparation for their work Ms. Abbey took her students to the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens where they were able to see an exhibit based on the work of Jim Hensen, the creator of the Sesame Street puppets.
In addition to cutting the patterns, hand sewing the seams, stuffing, clothing and defining the personalities of their “diverse” muppets the students developed a puppet show with tolerance as the central theme. The entire school attended the puppet show and the puppets themselves were put on display in the high school’s spring Festival of the Arts.
The outcome of the experience was everything Stefanie Abbey had hoped for, “This unit has to have been one of the most successful and rewarding of my career, not only because of the final results, but because of how it affected the school tone and climate overall.” In discussions about tolerance her students indicated a clear desire to honor and understand people whose backgrounds were different than their own. An unexpected, but very welcome result, was that a number of students developed a fondness for sewing! The activity brought a new calm to the school and so much to one student that her other teachers asked that she always bring her sewing to class.