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Building Civic Capacity for College Students: Flexible Thinking and Communicating as Puppeteers, Community Partners, and Citizen-Leaders


  • Deborah Thomson
  • Rebecca Dumlao
  • John Howard


College students face a complex world filled with pervasive social problems that require strong knowledge bases, critical thinking abilities, and sustained engagement in civic life. This article details key pedagogical practices for our innovative health puppetry program, in which undergraduate honors students use puppets to share information about healthy eating, diabetes prevention, and active lifestyles with children and their families in community settings. We articulate a notion of “flexible thinking” as the ability to take on and perform new roles within the public/civic arena by seeing complex social problems from multiple perspectives and responding with creative solutions and engaged action. We look to the written reflections of our student puppeteers to share, in their own words, multiple ways their thinking and communication changed as they grew as puppeteers, community partners, and citizen-leaders. We also offer insights about promoting flexible thinking through in-depth service-learning.
  • Year: 2016
  • Volume: 9 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 46-56
  • DOI: 10.54656/MJDX1722
  • Published on 31 Jul 2022