Saturday, August 04, 2007

TOVA ACKERMAN: PUPPETRY IN PRACTICE

During the first three years of her son’s life, Tova Ackerman stayed home to parent. Sometime in those three years, she journeyed to the Leah Wallace Studio to participate in a puppet-making workshop. It was there at the workshop that Tova got a glimpse of how puppets helped people tell their stories. When Tova returned to her post as faculty in the Education Department of Brooklyn College, she discovered that she could use puppetry as an effective tool to teach English as a second language. She partnered with one of her students to form a club called Puppetry in Practice. Brooklyn College, always supportive of her work, gave Tova a room from which to operate.

Twenty seven years later, Puppetry in Practice operates on many levels and has far-reaching influence beyond the walls of the Brooklyn College campus. PIP “promotes the use of creative arts to enhance literacy” and accomplishes its mission in the following ways:

· Creates artist-in-school residencies to enhance curriculum
· Facilitates professional development workshops and teacher trainings
· Develops curriculum to brings arts into the classroom
· Performs puppet shows in community spaces
· Teaches English as a second language through the arts
· Offer workshops for parents about promoting literacy via the arts
· Leads family literacy workshops in puppetry and book arts


Tova is particularly excited about PIP's puppet museum which also serves as an outreach center. The museum is a site for workshops and is a place where artists and educators can get together. Tovawelcomes visitors to the museum. It's located in Marine Park, on Nostrand between Quentin and R. For folks who'd like to visit, call the main number at the college, 718-951-4240, and get directions to the museum. It's open by appointment until PIP has the staff to keep the center open all the time.

Tova is clear that the most enjoyable aspect of leading PIP is the people she works with. Tova’s love for people and cooperation is evident in what she does to make PIP special. First, Tova treats the artists she brings on board PIP as members of her extended family, no matter how long or short of a time they stay doing the work. Second, she is constantly setting up collaborations between educators and artists in US and countries all over the world, including Israel, Mexico, Brazil, and Puerto Rico. She personally makes it possible for folks from other countries to share their crafts with school children here in New York.

In reflecting on what has or has not changed in the world of puppetry since she started up PIP more than a quarter of a century ago, Tova has this to say: “What was unique in the early days of PIP was our use of puppetry to teach English as a second language. What has developed over the years is a general acceptance as art as a tool for teaching. More people are aware of the value of the arts and I am happy about that.”
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