J500 Media and the Environment

The Performance of My Life by mstinawood
Salty the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse

Salty the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse

I never thought I would move back to Lawrence after graduating in 2003. I came back last year, out of necessity, after spending 6 months in San Francisco.

In San Francisco I worked as an intern for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, taught environmental education, and led a field trip program. It was there that I met a pudgy third grader named Juan.Juan came from a low income community in Alviso, CA. He, and most of the children in his class, had never been on a field trip, let alone outside of their small town.

Part of my job as an intern, my least favorite, was to put on a puppet show starring Cali the California Clapper Rail and Salty the Salt

Cali the California Clapper Rail

Cali the California Clapper Rail

Marsh Harvest Mouse. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be heckled by small children who weren’t impressed with my performance. Hecklers would call out, “Hey, I can see you behind that curtain,” or “She can’t sing.”

But this day was different. Through the black veil of the puppet show stage I could see a small round boy in the front row propped up on his knees so excited about my puppet show he couldn’t sit still. At the end of the show he jumped up laughing and cheered. I never had such a rave review.

Later that afternoon, Juan came to me and said,”Miss Tina I never saw a play as good as yours. I love it.” For the first time I realized how important that puppet show actually was and that I had the power to leave an impression. That was what brought me back to Lawrence, to KU. I will graduate this year with a degree in Environmental Studies ready to take on hecklers everywhere. Thanks Juan. 

Tina Wood

Photo Credit

Photo Credit


4 Comments so far
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This is such a great story! I wish that more people realized that while some programs don’t reach everyone, there are the Juans in the world who make informal education so worthwhile. Informal education like your puppet show is so important because it gives people the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom and while it may not always seem like kids are paying attention, these interactions are what they remember in the future.

Comment by meganr21

Megan, I agree. It takes a lot of work to maintain enthusiasm for a program that doesn’t seem to excite very many kids. I can only hope that Juan will remember me.. I will always remember him.

Comment by christinaw09

This post was enjoyable to read. The days of puppet shows are all but gone, but for kids like Juan this is the most interactivity he may get. All the other kids would rather play a video game or something of that nature. It is good to know that the message is still getting across to some kids.

Comment by matthewtb

Such a cute story! It only takes little things like this to get kids so excited about something. Maybe he will be a leader in a conservation organization some day 🙂

Comment by amandat09

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