The Power of Puppets: Sharing Summer Success in the 21stCCLC Program

students with puppets

Lights, Camera, Action! Campers at Dirigo Elementary School, a 21st Century Community Learning Centers CCLC program site, have been perfecting their puppeteer skills through music. James Hamalainen, music teacher at Dirigo Middle School, worked with each group to create their own music, write lyrics and produce the final show.  Improvising, writing songs, practicing lines, character development and dancing are some of the areas students explored while building their self esteem in a fun, supportive environment.

Puppets are a powerful educational tool that can help students overcome anxiety, and foster self confidence. When combined with music it can help improve language skills, as well as social and emotional development. Research shows that the isolation over the last few years has caused a significant number of elementary students to fall far behind in language, communication and social development. Learning experiences like this can begin to address these concerns to help students progress academically.

RSU 56, in partnership with Oxford County Mental Health Services (OCMHS), is a 21st Century Community Learning Center (21stCCLC) program based at Dirigo Elementary School in Peru, Maine.

Funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program, Maine currently has 35 CCLC grants and 61 CCLC sites across Maine that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly for students who face economic and/or academic challenges. With strong community partnerships at the core of every one of its programs, Maine’s 21st Century Learning Centers help students meet academic goals and offer a broad array of enrichment activities, in addition to other educational and engagement opportunities for communities and families. Learn more about Maine’s CCLC grant opportunities at or reach out to Travis Doughty at