Since the founding of Puppeteers of America (PofA), the organization has demonstrated a deep commitment to puppetry in education. Dr Marjorie Batchelder McPharlin, who served as president of PofA, began teaching puppetry at Ohio State University in 1935. Through its publications, festival workshops, committees, and programming; PofA shares information and encourages puppetry in education.

A Professional Day for the Teaching Artist and Therapist workshop has been offered within the National Puppetry Festival in recent editions. In 2023 we are honoring the educational puppet conferences of our past and will be expanding our offering by presenting the Puppeteers of America Academic Symposium For Puppetry in Education and Therapy to be featured on Friday, July 21 2023.

Educators of all stripes are invited to attend a unique offering of informative workshops, panels, special programming, and performances with afternoon and evening keynotes presented by the Puppetry in Education and Therapy Committee of Puppeteers of America.

Those seeking a fully immersive experience are welcome to join us with Symposium full festival registration. An educational track of workshops and activities are programmed throughout the entire festival.

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FAQ & Resources

Please review before registration

Detailed Instructions are located in the FAQ

registration Form is located below the agenda

For Academic Immersion Festival Registration Tickets only

to make workshop selections for the additional festival days

visit 2023 NAT'L FESTIVAL - Workshops

The worksheet below may assist with scheduling.

Symposium Reg Grid.pdf

Symposium Agenda

Welcome and Check-In

Stamp Student Union - Main Lobby


The Puppetry in Education and Therapy Committee looks forward to welcoming you on Education Day at the National Puppetry Festival. We look forward to presenting you with a small welcome kit during check-in and will be scanning your WHOVA app** bar code or printed registration paper. Staff will be on hand to orient and guide you to the various locations of the Symposium activities in the Stamp Student Union. Badges and meal cards will also be issued.

**- The WHOVA Event app is interactive software for attendees that may be used on mobile devices with/without wifi. The app opens in late spring 2023 and attendees will be notified when it is available for download. Visit here for more info

Symposium Workshops

Full Morning Sessions 9:00am-12:00Pm

Attendees May choose One Full Session and will not select other morning Workshops

Making Connections Through Puppetry with Z. Briggs

Making Connections Through Puppetry is a professional development workshop for educators, counselors, therapists, and other professionals working with young people (especially those with developmental delays). Are you currently using puppets in your work or are you interested in learning more about how to begin? Learn the basics of what brings a puppet to life, how to perform puppets in one-on-one and small group settings, and how to integrate puppetry into your practice with a focus on elevating performance quality for greater effect. Please note this workshop is open to symposium, main festival, and community attendees of all skill levels.

Try Your Hand at Feelings with Joanne F. Vizzini 

Grief and Loss Across the Lifespan: Making Puppet Images and Narrative Which Claim Intersectional Identity

Expect to laugh during this daring, delightful, and dazzling workshop, which invites puppets/dolls into your home, classroom, library, spiritual space, and/or clinical space. Participants across the lifespan often project their own story onto puppets. The puppeteer, educator, caregiver & therapist of any type become the sacred witness, handing the participants a comforting image or holding one for them. Effectively facilitating learning about feelings, how to handle hurts & anger, what to expect when someone is grieving, & offering the puppets as a healing instrument, will come more naturally following these four workshops. Furry friends awaken the brain that is keeping a participant/student from feeling whole in body, mind and spirit. Puppets help learners experience the world as a safe place (Interoceptive harmony). Puppets help participants of all ages travel between their inner experience and the present world.

Dr. V gives poignant & purposeful suggestions for practical puppet use, some specifically designed for the virtual venue. You will be given many viable ideas and  experiences, along with videotaped material and concrete handouts. You will make a puppet appropriate for your setting, practice using the basic concepts of psychoeducaitonal and psychotherapeutic puppetry, and discover the magic of puppet/doll use for a variety of cultures. Mediums: Practice in small groups themes taught, basic puppetry skills, one to one sharing, & performing (if interested) in the "magic space”. Notice differences, likenesses, and feelings about injustices. Use puppets as a healing tool. PowerPoint’s & bibliographic materials are made available. Please note this workshop is open to symposium and main festival attendees. This workshop is the 3rd stand-alone presentation in a 4-part series presented during the entirety of the National Puppet Festival.

Symposium Workshops

Session 1: 9:00am-10:15am

Attendees will choose One from each session

Puppet Science with Robin Gaffney-Holder

This workshop is for the educator who isn’t afraid to think outside the box. puppet Science Uses Puppetry to introduce students to various scientific concepts grades pre-k through 5. We learn  how  interdisciplinary Arts integration programs incorporates, Literacy learning, Social and Emotional skills,  Puppet theater, music and visual arts. Students learn how about hypothesis, and processes /methods used to do experiments. In addition students create their own puppets as reinforcement activity  and work in collaborative groups.

US Fulbright Funding and Travel Opportunities for Puppetry Artists, Performers, Educators and Scholars

Prior US Fulbright recipients will conduct a panel discussion which includes personal experiences from each panelist who will each share stories and images about their different types of Fulbright grant experiences. The lively conversation and slide presentations will provide opportunities for the workshop participants to learn about how a Fulbright grant can be a great way for puppeteers (and others!) to celebrate and advance their work as performers, educators and scholars. Session will include specific details to the Fulbright Awards and a Q&A session for participants.

Green Screen in the Classroom with Conni Mulligan

Puppets are not just for the "littles!" We will explore how to use various styles of puppetry (for all grade and age levels) in conjunction with green screen technology to immerse the viewer into the story. Puppetry is an ancient storytelling art form that can be dated back to shadow stories displayed on cave walls by firelight. Through the various styles/forms of puppetry (Hand, Rod, Stick, Marionettes, etc.) that are available, the possibilities are endless for students. This is a wonderful storytelling tool that will can be used for Problem/Project Based Learning and also fits into all STEM and STEAM curriculum environments.

Puppetry Education for Specialty Classrooms with Edna Bland

This workshop will help inform and inspire puppeteers, teaching artists and certified educators showing them how puppetry arts can be used for special needs students as well as English Language Learners.

Puppet Crafts to Make with Kids: Basic Builds and Painless Performances for Library Programs with Katie George

Puppet-making ignites imagination and incorporates design, math, engineering, motor, and other skills. See examples of puppets made from common craft materials. Learn a framework for matching puppet types to mini performance ideas. Build a few of your own examples in class and collect ideas for crafts to make in your own library programs.

Symposium Workshops

Session 2: 10:45am-12:00Pm

Attendees will choose One from each session

Finding State Curriculum Strands/Standards for Puppetry

with Conni Mulligan & Edna Bland

Participants will learn how to search for National and State Standards that work in conjunction with their Puppet show/Performance. These include but are not limited to: Theater Arts, Visual and Performing Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, etc. We will also discuss how to use proper educational terminology to write your curriculum guides for use in the classroom.

From "Jabberwocky" to Puppets with Judith O'Hare

The workshop presents an approach to puppetry in education that requires divergent thinking, group skills, problem solving, analysis of poetry, and dramatic expression. Using simple materials construct a fantastic puppet which is manipulated by 3 or more people and comes alive to recreate the characters from Lewis Carroll’s poem, “Jabberwocky” Workshop will end with an improvised performance based on the poem. Bringing literature to life.

Puppets for Powerful Learning: Frogs, Toads, Friends, and Science! with Johanna Smith

Join Professor Johanna Smith, author of the award-winning puppetry education text Puppetry in Theatre and Arts Education: Head, Hands, and Heart in a lively exploration of a story from “Frog and Toad are Friends” by Arnold Lobel.  We will explore simple but powerful ways to bring the story (and deep learning) to life.  We will also dig into how a “puppetizing” lesson can cover multiple subjects and standards and develop crucial skills.  This session has been most recently enthusiastically received by schoolchildren and teachers in Edinburgh, Scotland, proving one of Johanna’s deep beliefs that the arts and devoted teachers can change the world.

Puppets in the Classroom with Robin Gaffney-Holder

This performance work shop is for the educator who is interested in using puppetry as  part of An arts interdisciplinary program. this workshop teaches who to incorporate social and emotional learning Proficiency skills using musical Puppets. We show you how to actively engage students in language arts, literacy learning, creative play, art, musical theater, and visual arts. This program is designed to provide Pre-k through 5th grade learners with an opportunity to gain knowledge, that would help develop attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, express their feels, and show empathy to others. Each program comes with a curriculum guide to assist teachers to use in the classroom.

Robin Holder is an Early Childhood Educator and Teaching Artist specializing in Social and Emotional Learning. In 2012, Robin founded Neuma International Arts of NY, Inc., an arts-in-education Corp.Today, it has grown into Neuma Arts Puppets, a musical puppet theater combining creative arts and urban educational components. Social and Emotional Learning Strategies are woven into fun filled productions, that demonstrate life lessons using puppetry, to help children and their families learn through, storytelling, music, movement, and dance.

Storytelling with Puppets: Incorporating Puppetry into Library Storytimes

with Katie George

Puppetry provides a multi-sensory connection to literature. It can breathe new life into timeless classics and enhance many narrative experiences. Watch examples of different puppet storytelling styles in action. Learn a framework for matching puppetry styles to narrative formats. Choose a favorite story and begin to develop your own puppet storytelling idea.



"The Three Little Pigs" - Puppet Art Theater Co.

Live rod and hand puppetry combined with projected sets and animations bring this irreverent telling of this classic tale. Three pigs strike out on their own looking to have fun and adventures. But first, they must build houses for themselves. Straw, sticks, bricks, and a huffing and puffing Big Bad Wolf add up to hilarity and mayhem in this adaptation of the classic story, “The Three Little Pigs.”

About Puppet Art Theater Co.

Art became fascinated by puppetry in the early 90’s while pursuing a degree in teaching. A puppetry course his last year of college took him off the teaching path and onto a successful career as a puppeteer. An early opportunity to study with Jim Henson’s Muppet Performers and hundreds of performances for a touring company helped hone his skills as a performer. An invitation to be one of the first participants in the Emerging Artist Program at the National Puppetry Conference, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center helped develop Grueneberger’s writing and production skills.  These skills combined with a bit of luck lead to the formation of Grueneberger’s Puppet Art Theater Co. in 1995. Today Puppet Art Theater Co. has eighteen productions that tour across California and beyond completing more than 600 live performances for family audiences every year. Grueneberger has become a master at developing marvelous puppet shows that delight audiences of all ages. Facebook: @PuppetArtTheaterCo Instagram: @puppetartg

Afternoon Focus Sessions


Attendees will choose One Focus Session

Choice A:

Collaborative Tabletop Puppetry Techniques for Therapy with Matthew Bernier

Tabletop is a contemporary form of puppetry that is effective in various forms of therapy because it simulates children’s natural play, creating an intimate hands-on and often collaborative experience. It also activates all parts of brain activity, increasing creative flow that is essential in trauma resolution. This workshop addresses neuroaesthetic theatrical elements of stage/play space, setting/time/weather, characters, and storytelling, and hands-on techniques for simple tabletop puppet making, animation, and storytelling. 3 Hours.

Choice B:

I'm Taking My Class to See a Puppet Show, Now What Do I Do?

with Johanna Smith & Edna Bland & Conni Mulligan

And now the fun part for teachers! Developing classroom activities to squeeze all the learning potential out of a professional puppet show. We'll explore pre-show, during and post-show activities that meet your curriculum standards. 3 Hours.

Choice C: Part 1 of 3

Puppets and Autism: A Special Connection

a Panel Discussion hosted by the Jim Henson Foundation

Puppetry has a special ability to connect with neurodivergent audiences and can be used as an effective learning tool and bridge for communication and motivation. An invited panel hosts a lively discussion with Jim Henson Foundation President Cheryl Henson, Foundation Manager and co-artistic director of WonderSpark Puppets Z. Briggs, Center for Puppetry Arts Education Director Aretta Baumgartner, Artistic Director of Drama of Works and creator of "Puppet Club" for neurodiverse puppeteers Gretchen Van Lente, puppeteer of Julia on Sesame Street and Artistic Director of Puppet Pie Stacey Gordon, and puppeteer and puppet-builder Kieran Braun. 1 Hour.

Choice C: Part 2 of 3

Digitizing Personal Archives I with Jeff Swann

Jeff Swann promised his mother that he would document the effort and love she put into her puppetry career. In this workshop he will review the equipment he used and the procedures he developed for digitizing the archive of scripts, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera.  This hands on workshop will also offer tips on digitizing legacy audio and video recordings. This workshop is presented by the Puppeteers of America Festival Exhibit. 1 Hour.

Choice C: Part 3 of 3

Digitizing Personal Archives II with Jeff Swann

Jeff Swann promised his mother that he would document the effort and love she put into her puppetry career. In this workshop he will review the equipment he used and the procedures he developed for digitizing the archive of scripts, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera.  This hands on workshop will also offer tips on digitizing legacy audio and video recordings. This workshop is presented by the Puppeteers of America Festival Exhibit. 1 Hour.

Symposium ends

Additional Activities Available to Gold level Attendees (5:00pm-10:00pm)

Attendees will enjoy dinner, access to a reception, ability to explore the puppetry store and exhibit, and conclude with evening keynote and performance.

Puppeteers of America
310 East 38th St, Suite 127
Minneapolis, MN 55409