Sesame Street Puppeteer at Winston

Sesame Street Puppeteer Visits Winston Elementary for Black History Month
Posted on 02/16/2024
Sesame Street puppeteer Chris Thomas Hayes shows Winston students how puppets work.Sesame Street puppeteer Chris Thomas Hayes gave an inspiring presentation to Winston Elementary School students Monday, February 12, telling them about the Black puppeteers who influenced him growing up and demonstrating how puppets on the popular children’s TV show work.

Hayes was at Winston for Black History Month as part of the ARTSventure series from the Cultural Arts Council of Douglasville/Douglas County (CAC).

Winston counselor Sharleta Smith worked with the CAC to bring Hayes to her school.

“As a school counselor, one of my goals is to empower our students to ‘Dream Big’ and to collaborate within our community to embrace cultural diversity and help to promote all students' academic, career, and social-emotional development,” Smith said.

Monday’s performance by Hayes kicked off Winston’s week-long Black History Month Spirit Week, with students being encouraged to wear shirts with an inspirational or positive message as part of the “Reach for the Stars” theme, Smith said.

Hayes lives in metro Atlanta and said he goes to New York regularly to film Sesame Street episodes. He plays “Hoots the Owl,” a legacy muppet first introduced on the show in 1985. He also does other characters, including “Elijah Walker,” a Black weather forecaster who was introduced with his 5-year-old son “Wesley” in 2021 as part of the show's efforts to address racial literacy.

During his visit Monday, he engaged the students and staff while demonstrating how puppeteering works.

He talked about some of his co-workers, including “Big Bird” and “Elmo,” which drew lots of excited cheers from the students.

And he showed pictures of some of the Black puppeteers he watched when he was growing up, including Kevin Clash, Noel MacNeil, Brad Brewer and ventriloquist, actor and comedian Willy Tyler.

“I really like this art form and I really like this age – those two things together,” Hayes said. “Puppets just allow you to kind of open your mind up to be kind of anything you can think of … which is what kind of drew me to it. And then at this age, it’s an artform they sometimes don’t see a lot because there’s less puppet shows on TV then there used to be back in the day. To put a puppeteer in front of them and let them know that this is an actual jobs career, which is kind of cool. And I really like being in front of audiences like this, who are so open and so ready to accept you.This is my sweet spot.”
Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2024 SchoolMessenger Corporation. All rights reserved.