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9 Aug 2011
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Mirella Forsberg Ahlcrona uses puppets for learning, and to resolve conflict among children

Mirella Forsberg Ahlcrona is considered a celebrity of sorts in Sweden, her home town. And she's not a film star or a musician. She's a teacher who communicates with children using puppets. She was in the city to conduct a workshop at the British Library in association with Kathalaya last week. The workshop hummed with activity as colourful puppets were created by the participants. Mirella holds a PhD and is a lecturer in pedagogy at the department of education, communication and learning, University of Gothenberg, Sweden. She has researched on hand-doll gear, listening form and aesthetic processors. Her interests include child pedagogy, language and mathematics in school. For decades now, Mirella has been integrating concepts for learning and communication using puppetry for skill-based and academic learning.

Mirella contends that puppetry is the most effective way to communicate with children. “A child's attention span is short, so using puppets is a good way to hold their attention. It's important too that a teacher conduct a puppet show for children to leave an indelible impression in their minds.”

Mirella makes a distinction between puppetry for teaching and puppetry for theatre. “In theatre, puppets are created to suit a particular a story. It's confined to the performance alone. As a teaching and communication tool, puppets take a life of its own. It enhances a child's imagination as it can be viewed differently every time.” Mirella also uses puppetry to resolve conflicts among children. “We don't preach to children. We depict, through a puppet show, the conflict situation and leave it to them to decide who was right and who wasn't.”

Mirella's daughter, 21-year-old Amanda, who frequently assists her mother for her puppetry workshops, speaks of how her mother's passion for puppets enhanced her creativity. “I grew up around puppets. I'm presently studying social sciences but I enjoy travelling with my mother for workshops. We've conducted workshops mainly in some Scandinavian countries. This is our first visit to India.”

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