MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A group of students and teachers at West Virginia University have created a COVID-19 public service announcement (PSA) for children using puppets.
The PSA entitled “The Three Pigs and Wolfey Learn About Preventing COVID” was created by Mary McClung, a professor of costume design and puppetry, along with her students. The six and a half minute video covers everything from how far we should be social distancing to how long to handwash.
“We just wanted to do something for kids around the country and even around our state, just get something out there,” McClung said. “Plus, I want my puppetry students to have something to do because we aren’t doing shows for our season now because of COVID. We ended up just being really careful when we were shooting it.”
In the end, McClung said it took two weeks of work involving seven students and two faculty. Jacob Currence, a graduate teaching assistant with the WVU Puppet Mobile, was one of the helping hands.
He, too, said the motivation was helping children, but also WVU students who haven’t had many performing opportunities because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We really wanted it to be an opportunity for our puppetry students to have something recorded,” he said. “Because a lot of them want to go out into the world and show the kind of work that they can do, so it was a really good opportunity for that as well.”
Now that the video has been made, McClung and Currence said they are really only interested in hearing what the kids have to say. They said that is the metric by which they measure their success.
So far, things are looking up. Currence said he is promoting the video through his own Facebook Page. Plus, his mom, who’s a teacher, is sharing it with other teachers in her network.
For her part, McClung said, she is sending the video to schools around West Virginia and the region, reaching even into Pennsylvania.
The professor said parents are reporting their children are laughing and learning. Currence said he can even see that in his own home.
“I have a niece at home and she is about six years old, so really about the age range that we were hitting on communicating with,” Currence said. “And they said she started singing happy birthday as the length of time to wash your hands. She now does that and they say she does extra dramatic faces and really gets into it. But she kept up with that to know she should wash her hands and sing happy birthday for the proper length of time.”
Knowing that their work is bringing smiles to children’s faces while they learn valuable lessons was always the goal of this project, McClung said.
“We just want kids to enjoy, we’re not charging anything,” McClung said. “We’re not trying to get anything out of it other than we just want to do something for the kids and teachers and just trying to help. We love it, we really love it and we had such a good time doing it, that was the thing. It was really wonderful.”
Currence said all of this joy and excitement is part of what teaching and learning puppetry about.
In a way, he said, WVU Puppet Mobile got the chance to kill three birds with one stone through the creation of this PSA.
“Because we’re promoting this language of health and safety, we’re giving our students an opportunity, but we’re also giving the community something in return,” he said.
Now that children seem to really enjoy their creation and WVU students learned from this experience, McClung and Currence said they could see themselves doing this again.
“Quite frankly, this was so successful and our students loved it so much that we’re going to keep doing this,” McClung said. “I’m really excited that it happened. It happened as a result of something that was really bad, but it had a great result, so I can see it continuing.”