Fewer words strike dread in the hearts of parents than, “I have a school project due.”
Earlier in the fall, Anna announced she would be making a marionette for her Social Studies project this year. Every year the students are required to make a project for their Social Studies class that is on display for the spring Middle School Fine Arts Night. Last year the seventh graders made busts of historical figures. This year, instead of making a diorama as in years past, each student would make a marionette based on a historical figure or a character reflecting a particular region the students studied. Anna chose to make a Hawaiian dancer since the class studied the Polynesian countries. I knew we were in trouble when scanning through several puppet-making books at the library I read, “Do not attempt making a marionette unless you have made a puppet before. This is a very difficult project.” What??!!
Adding to the difficulty of this project was the lack of directions. Believe it or not, but easy-to-follow directions on marionette-making are not readily available. Plus, there are a variety of methods a person can use. Anna would come home from school and describe the next steps in the process as told to her by her teacher, and it was all I could do to practice deep breathing exercises and not yell obscenities. For example, when I asked how we were supposed to make the head here’s what I got:
“We need to buy a Styrofoam ball or use a softball and then I cover it in clay and sculpt it. Then I make a mold of the head using Plaster of Paris. Then I put Sculpty Clay inside the mold and bake it and pop out the two molds and glue them together for the real head.”
Anna started shaping the head before Thanksgiving Break, but I had no idea how the body would come together. Thankfully, we stayed home for Christmas this year and so did her Social Studies teacher, and he was more than happy to work with Anna and several other classmates on their projects. Each time Anna came home and showed me her progress, I breathed silent prayers of thanksgiving. This was not pieces of paper or fabric sewed together to fashion a body. No, this was wooden parts shaped by some sort of saw that I don’t even know the name of and screw eyes and bits of leather and foam all arranged to make a marionette’s body. Upon returning to school after break, Anna spent many afternoons in the workshop sanding, screwing, and forming hands and feet for the developing marionette.
The week before the project was due was the most stressful. Every time I thought we finally had all the supplies we needed, Anna would discover we needed ONE. MORE. THING. In addition to making the marionette, we also needed to paint, clothe, and decorate said marionette. Thank God for Party City and Hawaiian-themed parties! We found a grass skirt that we cut down to size along with a lei, and who knew that plastic Easter eggs could become a coconut top when painted brown and glued to leather strips! Finding hair for Lola was a bit more challenging—especially on the pocketbook. I didn’t want to pay $30 for a small strip of hair extensions when I probably needed at least three packs. We finally found some synthetic hair for $20 at Claire’s.
This past Monday morning dawned and I carefully tucked Lola into a bag for Anna to take to class. I’m sure I wasn’t the only parent praying that nothing broke or fell off before the teacher had a chance to grade the project. Lola earned an A!
I think I can safely say that my project-making years are behind me. I have officially paid my parental dues and graduated. (I haven’t shed a tear!) So far, the biggest project Jacob has had in high school was to make a cell for Biology and that only required a shoe box.
Was this assignment worth it? I have my doubts, but I also know it’s too soon for me to answer. I will say that Anna did this project on her own. She worked hard and put in many hours and I think that counts for something.
On a side note, the marionette still needs to be strung. 😦