Presenting "la Baula" (the Leatherback) — star of the children's puppet show.
Photo courtesy of Meg Warre/Earthwatch Institute
Local Children Perform a Puppet Show
by Judy Zabriskie, artist and educator

Hi. My name is Judy. I'm an artist and a teacher. I've been helping the local schoolchildren here at Matapalo prepare a puppet play. It's about the life cycle of the leatherback sea turtle.

To prepare for the puppet play, each child had to pick a part he or she wanted to play. Of course, all hands went up for la baula (the leatherback) and "las tortuguitas" (the hatchlings). Only a few kids raised their hands to be the predators — la gaviota (seagull), el pelicano (pelican), la mapache (raccoon), el congrejo (crab). And, as you can guess, even fewer children wanted to be nonliving objects like la luna (moon), la mar (sea), or la basura (garbage). Colored paper bags, crayons, and streamers helped to bring the characters to life.

For a stage, the students draped a red cloth over a cord. The beach was a drawing on the colored paper that we glued to the cardboard. The puppets would appear from behind the red cloth in front of the beach.

Finally the day of the big puppet show was here. The children presented the play to the younger students and to the Earthwatch Team. The puppeteers excitedly huddled in a group near the stage. The play began with the leatherback puppet crawling out of the water under the full moon. One of the children played the role of the tracks. The tracks puppet followed the leatherback as she proceeded to crawl to a nesting spot to dig. Then the kids tilted the nose of the nesting puppet upwards. Out beneath her slid a nest and eggs!

A few seconds later (what ordinarily takes 65 days) the hatchling puppets emerged from behind the curtain. Shortly thereafter, we heard all kinds of sound effects — birds whistling, dogs barking, meowing cats. The hatchlings' predators had arrived!

Finally, a hatchling made it to the ocean, only to meet tiburón (a shark puppet)! The baby turtle escaped the shark. Later, she even found a very pretty medusa (jellyfish) to feed upon. But at the end, the greatest threat to the hatchling was the paper cutout of a human figure with garbage. The play was a big hit.