Kindergarten – Halloween Shadow Puppets inspired by Wayang Kulit puppets

Kindergarten – Halloween Shadow Puppets inspired by Wayang Kulit puppets

Description of the Unit – When I was about eight years old, an uncle of mine returned from working abroad in Jakarta, Indonesia, and brought back a pair of Wayang Golek rod puppets. These two-foot tall dolls both frightened and fascinated me, with their elaborately painted, expressive faces and beautifully dyed, patterned clothes. Many years later I learned that these puppets were related to another Indonesian puppetry art-form: the Wayang Kulit shadow puppets. These puppets are mostly two-dimensional and are manipulated in front of a diaphanous, backlit screen. The puppets themselves have designs and patterns cut into them making them look almost lace-like, adding to the characteristics of individual puppets.

A set of four Wayang Golek rod dolls
Wayang Golek rod dolls
Wayang Kulit shadow puppets against a luminous backlit screen
Wayang Kulit shadow puppets

Activity statement – Of course this lesson is always done during Halloween season. Inspired by observations of Wayang Kulit shadow puppets, students will get into the Halloween spirit by creating a spooky scene with shadow puppets they cut from black paper and glue onto craft sticks. Their “glowing” sunset background will help to reinforce their understanding of cool vs. warm colors, and how to create orange by combining red and yellow. This unit also supports the California Visual Arts Standards for Kindergarten under Creative Expression: “Demonstrate beginning skill in the use of tools and processes, such as the use of scissors, glue, and paper” (2.2).

Goals – Students should…

Understand:

  • The difference between warm and cool colors
  • In most basic terms, how shadow puppets work

Know:

  • Which combination of primary colors make the secondary colors

Be able to:

  • Manipulate scissors to cut basic shapes
  • Use glue to affix paper to craft sticks and format paper
  • Create orange from yellow and red

Objectives – Students will: Create “Halloween-esque” shadow puppets inspired by the Wayang Kulit tradition, with a warm sunset background created by mixing red and yellow to create orange.

Resources and materials –

  • Videos and images demonstrating the Wayang Kulit tradition
  • A map to help students locate Indonesia
  • 12” x 18” white Bristol paper or tagboard
  • Black heavyweight paper
  • Craft sticks
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks
  • Elmer’s or other white glue (to stick puppets on craft sticks)
  • Glue brushes
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Cups

Questions –

  • What do you think of these puppets?
  • What kinds of stories might you tell with these puppets?
  • Can you describe how you think the shadow puppets are manipulated?

  • Which colors are warm colors? Why?
  • Which colors are cool colors? Why?
  • What are the primary colors?
  • What are the secondary colors?
  • What makes a secondary color? Which colors make green? Which make purple? Which make orange?

  • What kinds of characters are thought of as Halloween characters?
  • What kinds of shapes do you see in a bat? In a ghost? In a cat? In a witch?

Evaluation –

  • Understand the difference between warm and cool colors?
  • Understand which secondary colors are made by which primary colors?
  • Effectively manipulate scissors and glue to make shadow puppets?
  • Use knowledge of shapes to help cut out their characters?

Informal:

  • Class discussion
  • Responses to questions
  • One finished piece
Kindergarten - A student's Halloween shadow puppets of two ghosts with sunset background
Kindergarten – A student’s Halloween shadow puppets with sunset background
Kindergarten - A student's Halloween shadow puppets of a ghost and black cat with sunset background
Kindergarten – A student’s Halloween shadow puppets with sunset background (for the ghost’s eyes, the student used a hole puncher)
Kindergarten - A student's Halloween shadow puppets of a bat and ghost with sunset background
Kindergarten – A student’s Halloween shadow puppets with sunset background
Kindergarten - A student's Halloween shadow puppets of a cat, witch and bat with sunset background
Kindergarten – A student’s Halloween shadow puppets with sunset background. This example shows how some kindergarten students come to school having had more experience with scissors, showing more developed fine motor skills and an ability to more closely achieve the kinds of shapes they plan for. I particularly admire the obvious control shown in cutting the curve of the cat’s back and the spikiness of the witch’s broom., as well the organic look of the tree–it actually looks spooky!

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