Lorraine Pisano's third grade gifted class at Gulf Elementary recently educated other students with an informative and entertaining puppet show about the Florida Everglades from the wildlife's point of view.
"I Dream of the Everglades" was the name of the show.
"It was created by my third grade class, and took about five weeks to prepare," Pisano said. "We started this by reading the book "Escape To The Everglades" by two local authors, Edwina Raffa and Annelle Rigsby. They are also former teachers."
For many students, it is information that will be valuable for upcoming field trips to the Everglades.
"Not only did the students learn about the second Seminole Indian War, they spent time learning about the animals and the plants of the Everglades," Pisano said."
Each child had to research his or her own Everglades animal they chose as their puppet.
"The Environmental Education Department of Lee County Schools loaned us their puppets, and some we improved."
They created the puppet theater out of a giant cardboard box, painting and adding the props for their animals.
"We had Sierra Edelstein and her mother Kimberly Edelstein, who is an environmental engineer, create and present a Powerpoint presentation to my class that discussed the problems that the Everglades water system is having at this time."
The play included important facts, said Pisano.
"My students are amazing and they loved this project. Their task was to use information about the health and the history of the Everglades to incorporate that into the needs of their Everglades animal and to give their animal a personality."
Members of the class included Maya Allione, Kalin Baitinger, Nicole Chang, William Christianson, Leah Cremins, Sierra Edelstein, Sophia Garvin, Simona Girdvainyte, Kole Graves, Jenna Jensen, Jennifer Larue, Tayowah Noll, Laney Padgett, Gabriel Peralto, Daniel Regan, Marilyn Tacktill, Logan Valente and Bella Viator.
"It's great to get kids involved within the curriculum," Gulf Elementary Principal Donnie Hopper said. "The fact is that it (the show) brought to life what they've been studying."
Their teacher complimented the many parents who helped and supported the show.
"I have the best parents ever. Some have more of a theatrical background than I do, so they were able to assist in having the children project their voices and giving us little tips here and there." Those parent volunteers included student Jennifer Larue's mother Rose LaRue, who attended with husband Mike. Their daughter had a dual role -two ladybugs. "It's a beautiful thing they are doing for the Everglades," said Rose LaRue. "We need to be aware of our surroundings, it's important. And the teacher is great."
Maya Allione's mother Stephanie Allione, also a volunteer parent, said, "It was very educational and fun at the same time. They learned how the Everglades is endangered, and learned what they can do to make it better. Maya played the narrator and was one of the writers.
"Mrs. Pisano wanted to research the Everglades with the kids, and asked if I could perhaps talk to the kids about it," said Kimberly Edelstine. She holds a Master s Degree in Environmental Science from the University of Florida and is a native Floridian. She is a senior project manager at AECOM, a national company based out of Fort Myers.
"My daughter Sierra and I put together the Powerpoint about it, the problems and the restoration, and Sierra presented it to the class. That's how the idea started for the puppet show started to grow, and everyone was excited about it. Basically, a lot of the script from the play was taken by this presentation."
She and husband Randy, along with proud grandmother Marge Rhodes, attended the event to watch that presentation come to life as the puppet show, with daughter Sara performing. She said she could not speak highly enough about the gifted program at the school. or this exercise.
"For the kids it is a learning experience, not just taking notes, but also communicating to each other. They'll remember this for a lifetime, and I hope they have a better appreciation for our environment - this is our next generation."