The Center for Puppetry Arts offers virtual access to a unique cultural treasure

11/27/2011  |  DANIEL SUMMERS, JR.
Virtual Field Trip

The Center for Puppetry Arts is a unique cultural treasure — a magical place where children and adults are educated, enlightened and entertained. Since 1978, the Center has introduced millions of visitors to the wonder and art of puppetry, touching the lives of many through enchanting performances, curriculum-based workshops and the hands-on museum, as well as distance learning and outreach programs.

One of the most exciting, yet little known, aspects at the Center for Puppetry Arts is its award-winning distance learning program that utilizes technology to offer nationwide programs for all ages. Arts-infused workshops are conducted via videoconferencing and are tailored to specific classroom topics and curriculum for K-12 groups, while webinars and live streaming workshops are ideal for adult students. This program has garnered 12 national and international awards and is considered a leader in the field of K-12 educational videoconferencing.

Begun in 1997, when the internet was still a very new tool just beginning to help educators and students to connect with information sources in ways previously unimagined, the Center’s distance learning program was originally thought of as an innovative, cost-effective delivery model for education workshops.

”This program originated with the assistance of Georgia teachers who helped to identify curriculum needs and how these programs could supplement their classroom teachings,” noted Distance Learning Program Director Patty Petrey Dees. “By adding puppetry elements, we were able to create an arts-infused curriculum that quickly grew to include both national and international audiences.”

Today, the Center’s distance learning program reaches 48 states and four foreign countries. Programming is currently offered in English and French, presented by a variety of instructors in a plethora of subjects. Hands-on, curriculum-based programs include: Making Healthy Choices, Anansi the Spider: a West African Folktale, Dinosaurs, Butterflies, Gingerbread Boy, Exploring Africa, Spiders, Plants, Rainforest, Native Americans, Mexico, and Africa (Mali). Programs are currently available in a bilingual format via a French speaking instructor. The program hopes to incorporate additional languages, such as Spanish, within the next few years.

Interactive Video Conferencing

For PreK-5, hands-on puppet building integrates with science, social studies, language arts and other disciplines to create a dynamic, interactive classroom for a virtual field trip experience. Programs adhere to national curriculum standards and appeal to a variety of learning styles. In addition, students view puppets and puppet replicas from the Center’s unique museum collection. This is a great way to introduce puppetry as a global art form.

Middle school/high school programs are discussion based. Programs complement national curriculum standards in language arts, social studies, science, math and other areas. Students engage in dialogue with Center experts from the education, production, and museum departments and discuss everything from careers in puppetry to staging a professional puppet show. The Center provides a comprehensive study guide and materials list for most programs.


Live webinars are recorded so that they may be streamed for later viewing. Lectures and webinars such as Discovering Puppetry in Other Cultures and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as programs specifically created for professional development such as the Hands-On Teacher Workshop or the Teacher Demo, help educators learn how to best use the distance learning program within their curriculum.


The latest offering from distance learning is live streaming workshops hosted on Anyone interested in puppetry can benefit from the lectures, hands-on workshops, and Q&A sessions posted on the site.

Of course, distance learning is far from the only offering at the Center for Puppetry Arts. As the nation’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to the art form of puppetry, the Center is proud to serve as a vanguard for the medium by curating museum exhibitions as well as both producing and presenting puppetry performances from around the world. Recognized as one of the nation’s flagship puppet theaters, the Center has received a record 13 Citations of Excellence, the highest honor in American puppetry, from UNIMA-USA, the U.S. branch of the international puppetry organization Union Internationale de la Marionnette.

As part of Black History month, in February 2012, the Center is proud to present “Ruth and the Green Book” based on the book of the same title by Calvin Alexander Ramsey. Chronicling a relatively unknown chapter in Civil Rights history, “Ruth and the Green Book” follows an African American family as they travel from Chicago to Alabama in the Jim Crow South of the 1950s. Plans are underway to launch a series of interactive distance learning programs during the production, including talks with the author, lectures, and other catalysts for discussion.

Through a partnership with the Coca-Cola Foundation, Distance Learning created a new interactive program focusing on healthy living to augment the Center’s original stage production, “Adventures of Little Noodle.” The interactive performance, written and directed by the Center’s Artistic Director Jon Ludwig, follows the odyssey of Little Noodle as she makes her way back to her home while being confronted by various healthy, and some not-so-healthy, choices. The performances will be held in the Center’s Downstairs Theater and is sponsored by the Aetna Foundation.

To find out more about Distance Learning, or any other aspects of the Center for Puppetry Arts’ programming, please visit or
Daniel Summers, Jr. is Marketing Director for the Center for Puppetry Arts and can be contacted at [email protected].
Comments & Ratings

  12/8/2011 8:11:16 AM
Rebecca Morrison 

Distance Learning Coordinator 
St. Louis area schools love the center's programs. They are very interactive and the teacher demonstrations are fabulous, too!