An old friend is bringing a new program to our centers! Alex Espy, the Mesner Puppet Theater’s Education Director, was the UICS-St. Mark Center Arts Coordinator for four years. The puppets Alex helped former little learners create still greet current students as they enter the Art Studio. 

 “What I learned from UICS informs almost everything I do now,” Alex said.

This month, Mesner Puppet Theater began a year-long residency at all three UICS centers, using theater to enrich social-emotional learning.

Alex designs residencies like this for organizations across the Kansas City Metro, and he’s been waiting to bring it home to UICS. He has been working with the UICS education team to meet their biggest learning goals.

“It’s really going to take the art that we do here to the next level,” said Curriculum Specialist Merrill Hunt. “I’m super excited about it!”

Mary Poggie, an experienced puppeteer and Mesner Puppet Theater’s early education arts integration specialist, has a decade of early education experience and will provide 12 sessions every month at each center.

She will incorporate everything from acting techniques, movement, design, and more, which will help little learners to problem solve and address big feelings. Big feelings can occur when someone experiences a heightened emotion like anger, sadness, or frustration. They are often referred to as “tantrums” but at UICS with our concerted focus with Conscious Discipline, they’re called “big feelings” and everyone has them! 

The residency’s weekly activities will be tools for the students to use whenever they need them. Alex uses the breathing techniques himself!

“We just want to use all of our theater knowledge to better equip teachers,” Alex said. “Ultimately, the residency will model new ways for teachers to incorporate theater into their classrooms.”

These sessions will inspire students’ creativity, give teachers new classroom skills, and open new opportunities for families to learn together. When our students have a new way to express themselves, their caregivers will also learn new ways to interact with their children through PLAY!

Right now, they are planning a puppet show at each center for the whole family. They are looking into other ways to engage parents and caregivers while maintaining safety protocols and keeping everyone’s health in mind. 

“For this residency to be successful, we want families to be excited to practice these techniques at home,” said Alex. “Overall, this is for everyone.”

We are thrilled to have Mesner Puppet Theater as a community partner who will use their expertise to support UICS little learners and families. 

If you have suggestions for this residency or ideas on how you want to use it at home with your little learners, send Alex an email at Alex@mesnerpuppets.org