Puppets Teach Students How to Resolve Conflict
By Tisha Eadle 

York Weekly, 11/25/00 - "Oh, I just love this," said one young Village Elementary School student as he found his seat on the gym floor. The excited youngster was one of many students gathered in the VES gymnasium Thursday, Oct. 19, for Lesley Smith's Theatre of Life Puppets. Smith, a puppeteer, singer and ventriloquist was on hand at both VES and Coastal Ridge Elementary School on the 19th to inform children about conflict resolution and bully prevention in an entertaining fashion. 

I like being able to reach children with social skills in a way they won't forget," said Smith. Horses, dragons and Sam the Snail were among many unforgettable characters in Smith's unique presentation of social problem-solving. Smith was accompanied by the enthusiastic keyboard music of Jimmy MacDougal, that encouraged dancing and toe tapping from York children. At VES, Smith was successful in capturing the attention of students throughout her entire hour-long theatrical demonstration. Sam the Snail helped Smith explain to children right and wrong ways to deal with anger resulting from a conflict situation. During the performance, the audience learned that the acronym CAPS is a positive way to deal with frustrations when confronting someone with an argument. In CAPS, the "c" stands for "cool off', "a" is for"agree to work it out", p means "point of view" and "s" refers to "solve it fairly". 

At Coastal Ridge, Smith performed "Wizards and Knights", teaching children how to prevent and deal with bullying. "It's great being able to combine singing, acting, and puppetry into educational programs," Smith said. 

Smith's work educating young people began nine years ago at the Children's Museum in Portsmouth. At that time, Smith' entertained small groups of two-to four-year-olds and parents with her storytelling. Since then, Smith's storytelling has expanded. Now, she tours New England elementary schools and appears on television on Nickelodeon, the Fox Family Network, and New England stations with performances that teach young children how to deal with social conflict. "The television appearances have been very successful for our cause," said Smith. "It's amazing how much we have grown." 

While the puppets and Lesley Smith's popularity continutes to grow, so will the number of children learning to deal with social conflict in a positive way. Smith also presents shows addressing peer pressure, tobacco and drug prevention, and environmental conservation. 

"I just hope to make a difference in young people's lives." said Smith.