Term: 1 Year: 2011
‘WATER, EARTH, FIRE, & AIR’
‘The Elements of Nature’
As part of their Integrated Curriculum unit, the Grade 3/4’s studied Puppets as their classroom topic. To
tie this together and extend student’s classroom knowledge we made Marionette Puppets in Art.
After discussing a variety of different puppets with the students, we focussed on the Marionette as our model.
Students brought in puppets of their own, and we investigated their construction. The students were given a starting
point based on the theme ‘The Elements of Nature’ (Water, Earth, Fire, & Air). Each student worked
through a design process, making a list of the materials they would need to make their puppet and a plan of what it
would look like.
Next, students were given a pre-cut piece of muslin to paint in the colours associated with their chosen
Element. We used food dye, however, Sun Dyes or Procion Dyes can also be used if you want a more permanent
The faces were made by pouring plaster into Mould Shapes Faces, which come in a set of 3 different sizes. We used
the 6cm size. Once the plaster was set, students carefully painted their faces with Ocaldo blocks, making sure to
include characteristics of their chosen Element and always refer back to their plan. A demonstration of how to draw
eyes aimed to ensure students included pupils, lashes, and eyebrows in their work. Wool Tops (Merino & Synthetic)
were used for hair, as well as a variety of wool and ribbons.
Next, I faced one of those dilemmas we all have as a teacher; having a fantastic idea and not knowing how to carry
through with it. How was I to make the body and also make it move like a Marionette? The thought overwhelmed me and I
found myself going round and round in circles. Finally, after playing around with a few different versions, I
discovered a way. Using 2 fairy-floss sticks in the shape of a cross (taped together with masking tape in the
centre), the basis for the body began. A white stocking piece was filled with polyester filling and placed around the
cross to form the torso. ‘Sentence strips’ were then rolled into cylinders to form the arm joints, leg
joints, and hands and feet. To create the dangly effect of a Marionette doll, wool was threaded across the body from
one shoulder to the other to attach the arms, and across the hips to attach the legs. The pre-made cylindrical rolls
were then threaded through the wool and taped at the hands and feet to remain intact. The head was then glued on
using Supertac glue.
Once the body was complete, students began draping their material over their puppets and cutting it into an outfit
(dress, top, pants, cape, etc). Supertac glue was very handy during this process, helping to bind all the seams
together. There was no sewing involved in this activity. Final decorations were added to embellish the fabric such as
beads, shells, leaves, dried flowers, decorative ribbon, etc.
Finally, the Marionette control was made using more fairy-floss sticks taped together with masking tape. Fishing
line attached the head to the centre, and each arm and leg to the control (although most students found that it was
sufficient to attach only the hands and head and leave the legs as they had a tendency to tangle).
The whole experience took a whole term (and a bit) to complete. Students thoroughly enjoyed the task, and were
very pleased with their final pieces.
Visual Art Teacher
Chandler Park Primary School
Suitable for Levels 3 & 4