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KIDS ROCKWELL will be open open daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. through April 29.

Rockwell Paper Scissors: Pop-Up Puppet Theater

Norman Akers, Elk Calling, 1999, Oil on canvas, 66½ × 60¼ in. Clara S. Peck Fund. 2000.17.1.

Many of the works of art in The Rockwell Museum collection show animals. Some of the animals are in their habitats. Habitats are the places animals live! These places include water, air, shelter, and food for the animals to survive. 

Norman Akers’ painting Elk Calling, on the right, shows an elk emerging from water. There are big gray storm clouds floating in the sky. Do you see the yellow shape above the clouds? Do you think it is a sun, a compass, or both?

The painting is inspired by an Osage (a Native American tribe) legend about how the world came to be. In one version of the legend, the elk helped the first humans to live on earth. When his hairs stuck in the muddy soil, they grew into grass and trees that the people could use for food and shelter. 

Where do elk live? What types of plants or other animals could you find there? 

Susan C.M. Waters, Landscape with Cows, circa 1885, Oil on canvas, 36 × 48 in. Clara S. Peck Fund. 2020.3.

When Susan Waters painted the cows on the right, she gave each one its own expression and made each one look different. Do you see the human and the dog in the painting? Are they bigger or smaller than the cows? Why do you think Waters chose to paint them this way? Susan Waters was an advocate (supporter) for the kind treatment of animals, and believed animals have thoughts and feelings like humans do.

What would it be like if the animals in the artwork came to life?  What kinds of adventures would they have? Imagine what the animals might do, or what they would say if they could speak!

Create a fun collection of imaginary animal puppets with craft sticks and bring your animal friends to life! Decorate a portable theater and use them to put on your very own puppet show.


  • Craft sticks (we like large ones, but small ones work too!)
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • One page of cardstock
  • Colored pencils or crayons


  • Take 3 – 4 craft sticks for your puppet bases. What animals do you want to make? They can be imaginary animals!
  • Start with a face! You can keep it simple and draw two eyes and a mouth. Or you can cut paper shapes to turn into noses, mouths, eyes, ears, and hair. Glue the shapes onto the craft stick.
  • What kind of body does your puppet have? Does it have paws? Does it wear a shirt? Cut out paper to make a fuzzy belly, or a t-shirt, or paws! Glue your paper shapes to the craft stick.
  • Does your puppet wear pants? A skirt? Does it have a tail? Cut out paper shapes and glue them to the craft stick.
  • Use a colored pencil to add finishing touches to your puppet.
  • Make a theater, too! Print or trace the template onto cardstock. Fold on the dotted lines to make a pop-up stage!
  • Print out the theater template >> Cut it out and trace it onto cardstock or print it directly onto cardstock.
  • Cut out the center rectangle, and fold on the dotted lines.
  • What kind of scenery does your stage need? You can make it look like your puppets’ habitat or create something fantastical! Draw your scene with colored pencils or crayons. Cut out paper shapes and glue them to the scene to add texture and more color.
  • Crease the puppet theater along the pre-folded lines. Carefully stand it up on a tabletop. Hold your mini puppets behind the stage opening to put on a show!