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Fun with Trash

Puppeteer Encourages Children to Play with Junk

Kathleen Jacobs rummaged through a bright green trash can and pulled out empty milk bottles, broken corkscrews, spray bottles and multicolored sponges Monday, April 16, and transformed them into leading ladies, husbands, villains and heroes of the day.

Jacobs, who plays a whacky cleaning lady in "Magic Pots and Recycled Bottles," performed three short stories about Mother Earth Monday, April 16, at Ida Lee Park Recreation Center in Leesburg.

"Oh, what are these?" she said, as she pulled out two Kodak film canisters from a plastic bin. "Better save these, we might use them later."

The idea behind Jacob’s program is to remind children how to use their imagination, to encourage them to play with odds and ends around the house and to teach them about recycling.

"Children have forgotten how to play with junk," she said. "I’m here to remind them a character doesn’t have to come from a TV show or a movie. It can come from their cupboards, around their house."

MOMENTS LATER, Jacobs introduced her leading lady, Stormy, to her audience.

The puppet's body was made from an old cleaning spray bottle, her nose was made from a black pompom and her hair was made from a bright yellow sponge.

Next, she introduced Stormy’s husband, Echo, made from a broken corkscrew. Together, they told the story "The Goat in the Chile Patch," about a billy goat — made from a cleaning detergent container — who reeks havoc in a garden.

Sure enough, the empty Kodak film canister reappeared. This time, it was dressed up as a bee who scares the "bully" goat away.

"The bee stays in the garden, pollinates the plants and is good for the environment," Jacobs said.

Jacobs’ program is loosely based on South American, European and Asian folktales she’s transformed into tales about the importance of recycling.

"I recycled old folktales into a script," she said.

JACOBS, A HARTFORD County, Md., resident, made her first puppet out of trash 25 years ago. The former art teacher began making puppets out of cleaning products and broken utensils around her house while she was on maternity leave. When she returned to the classroom, she taught her students how to make puppets out of recycled bottles and plastic bags.

"That’s how this whole thing began," she said.

The project developed into the program she performs for groups of children around the Washington, D.C.-metropolitan area today.

AT THE END of the program, Jacobs provided parents with step-by-step instruction on how to make a plastic bottle puppet.

"Take a plastic bottle with a handle," Jacobs said, "turn it upside down and you have a puppet head."

Lauren Clem, one of a dozen parents in the audience, bounced her son on her knee during the 45-minute performance. She said she was impressed by Jacob’s ability to hold the children’s attention long enough to tell three stories.

"It’s neat the way she uses recyclables in her show," she said. "If the kids see recycling as something fun, well that’s the best way to get them to do it."