Recently 4th grade students at ArtSpace Charter School performed an original multi-layered social studies play entitled “The Little Prince Time Bandits”. This piece combined puppet theater segments adapted from Antoine St. Exupery’s existential fable, The Little Prince and scenes that illustrated historical moments and people of North Carolina as Europeans settled and clashed with indigenous peoples.
Ms. Tonya, 4th grade social studies and language arts teacher, shared The Little Prince with her students early in the school year. They spent time diving into the “moral of the story” as the Little Prince encountered the many characters in his story. As they explored the Little Prince in language arts, students were learning about NC history beginning with the natural history, and ending with westward expansion of the United States. Ms. Tonya watched her students make connections to the archetype characters in The Little Prince to the people in NC history. With the necessary background knowledge in their “toolboxes” students wrote scripts, created the puppets and and stages for the puppet segments which technology teacher Steve Lipe helped film.
The stage action in the productions was written using excerpts
from poems and historical fiction the 4th graders had written from the perspective of the plants and animals of Pisgah Forest, the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears, and Daniel Boone.
This experience offered 4th graders at ArtSpace a layered exploration of the patterns of change in history and character development in fiction. The students applied the information they learned through their research and reading to a dramatic production they will never forget. When asked what they enjoyed the most about the production, the students were eager to share. “I
loved making the puppet stages for the videos,” one student exclaimed. Another student said they enjoyed collaborating with their friends to make the puppet pieces happen. Students were also asked how they thought the lessons of the Little Prince and the experience of North Carolinians in history could apply today. One student summed it up and said if we could apply the moral of the story from the play today, things would be a lot nicer. The moral of the story is summed up by the closing dialogue of two railroad engineers contemplating the stories they have just watched. ““Perhaps the children are lucky because they know it is all about time. When you spend time getting to know a person, creating a work of art, or building a railroad, it becomes very important to you. . . You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. “