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Celebrating all species: Local people getting puppets ready for the All-Species Earth Day Parade

CARBONDALE — Without the Earth, we wouldn’t know about any species, so it’s only fitting that a group of individuals get together every year to host several puppet-making workshops for the All-Species Earth Day Parade on Sunday, April 22.

In order to march in the parade, just show up at the LIFE Community Center at 11 a.m., on April 22. The parade will begin at 11:30 a.m., and will culminate at Turley Park. Many marchers will have puppets created in one of the several puppet-making workshops, but there will be plenty of extra puppets for anybody who wants one.

Cade Bursell, one of the Puppetistas, said not only do children and adults alike enjoy the process of making the puppets, but many people are learning about new species at the same times. Usually, she said, people have to do research in order to make their puppet more authentic.

““We are celebrating all species,” she said. “People are really creative.”

Bursell said people from all over the region attend the puppet-making workshops, along with the parade. She said this past year, there were about 200 people in the parade, which was interrupted by rain. Additionally, there are people making their own puppets at home who join the group on Earth Day.

The group does get an assist from Carbondale Community Arts and the Carbondale Park District. CCA helps with a grant for painting materials, while the Park District gives them access to Turley Park for the Earth Day celebration after the parade.

Bursell said the kinds of people who attend the parade are really a mixed bag. She said students and faculty from SIU, local artists, and community members are all involved.

“It is a real nice combination of university and community folks that come together to make this happen,” she said.

Lisa Barnes, local artist and fellow Puppetista, said most of the materials used for the puppet-making are recycled materials that are picked up before they are sent to the local landfill.

She said she makes it a practice to do an inventory of local businesses to see what is thrown away each year, so supplies are available.

Sally Boyer-Myers of Murphysboro was helping her daughter Madeleine, 7, stuffed an unicorn that will be eventually rainbow-colored. 

“This is a wonderful event that brings adults and children together,” Boyer-Myers said. “Sometimes you have events that are either for adults or just for children — this marries the two.”

Nature-based classes for children set to kick off in Carbondale and Carterville

CARBONDALE — A new experience for young children in Southern Illinois gives them an opportunity to exercise their creativity while getting in touch with nature at the same time.

Tinkergarten is made up of a technology-enabled network of leaders that bring families together in a natural place in their community for classes where children learning through playing. On Saturday, Tinkergarten leader Trisha Revelle led a trial class at Evergreen Park. There will also be classes in Carterville at Cannon Park.

The class started with an opening activity. Each child received a metal bucket and were instructed to find something interesting at the park. They could fill it up with whatever they desired.

Revelle said this was a chance for the child to adjust to the setting and gives them some freedom to roam around the area. After the children selected their items, they reconvene in a community circle which includes important rhymes and ritual that build the child’s brain and body development, Revelle said.

After the circle starts the launch portion of the classes. This is where the children really started use their imagination. Revelle said she planned to act out a story and then have the children repeat the story through guided learning.

The class encourages the children to move by spinning their bodies and arms, helping with motor development and spatial awareness. The children are never told exactly how to do something, Revelle said. The leader is there to lead, but the class is about the child learning in their way.

“Once thing that Tinkergarten believes is, let the child lead and embrace the lulls,” Revelle said. “Those moments where they are bored, those are the moments when they really discover or investigate, and they need a bit more time for that.

“In this day and age, life is so fast paced and children sometimes forget to learn how to play and play to learn.”

According to Revelle, the mission is to elevate childhood and get kids learning in nature. It also helps parents to facilitate child-led, play-based learning.

“Kids are so attached to their screens they don’t have those moments of boredom anymore,” she said. “They have the freedom to get messy and use their bodies instead of staring at a screen.”

The classes in Carbondale and Carterville get started officially on April 21. The Carbondale class begins at 10:45 a.m. and the class in Carterville is at 4 p.m. There is still space available in each class. The cost is $17.50 per class, which goes toward materials, training for leaders and developing the curriculum. Each class is about an hour and 15 minutes.

Interested parents can sign their children up online at

Column | Ladies in the Lede
Girls World Expo aims to empower tweens, teens

The preteen and teenage years are pretty, well, downright miserable for many girls. At least, they were for me.

I never felt pretty enough, or smart enough, or friendly enough, or creative enough. I felt moored inside my own body, isolated inside my own mind. I had no idea, back then, that every single girl around me felt the exact same way.

And that’s the irony, isn’t it? We felt isolated in our changing bodies, confused by the swirl of hormones surging through our questioning minds, but all the women in my life would agree they also struggled through those awkward years. How different would it have been if we had had a resource, a camaraderie? A place to go with the sole aim of empowering us? What if we had had girls and women who had reached out to us, held on tight, and showed us the way?

Girls World Expo aims to do just that — and a lot more. And it’s coming to Southern Illinois on April 29.

Expo founder Varinda Missett says she was inspired to start the event eight years ago as she was raising two teenage daughters. She says they floundered in self-esteem and body image issues, and she saw a self-esteem and leadership deficit for them. And, they were disenchanted with their role models, she says.

“They had recently seen Britney Spears shave her head, and they were devastated,” she says. “And they didn’t have anyone to talk to.” They had no outlet outside of sports and church, she says.

Missett was working for a newspaper in California at the time, which sponsored an annual women’s expo. She had the idea to start a similar expo specifically for teenage girls, with breakout sessions geared toward empowering young women. The event was a success in her California market, but she later moved to New York, and decided to take the expo on the road.

Now, there are 16 Girls World Expos scheduled around the country in the next year.

In Southern Illinois, a panel of 10 local girls is guiding programming and entertainment for the event, which runs from noon to 4 p.m. at John A. Logan College. This is by Missett’s design — she didn’t want adults telling girls what to do. It’s a peer-to-peer experience, and each expo is unique to the local community.

There are a few things that Missett, as a founder of the expo, wants to see at each event.

There will be a session called “Love the Skin You’re In,” which Missett says she wants to celebrate each girl’s uniqueness and will focus on self-esteem.

“I can’t stand when (girls) get pigeonholed about what they should look like and act like and what their social lives should be,” Missett says.

Locally, according to an event coordinator, this will include a focus on diversity, as well as a panel called “Fearless Females,” which features female trailblazers in traditionally male-dominated jobs.

One other session that’s one of Missett’s favorites is focused on questions girls don’t want to ask their moms — and there are strictly no moms allowed in this one.

Missett stresses that Girls World Expo is not a “pink, girly show.” There’s something for everyone, she says.

Also at Carbondale’s show will be a 3-D printer demonstration; career and resume resources, including mock interviews; a workshop about how to build a business plan; a discussion of work-life balance; wellness and physical health resources; musical and dance performances; a fashion show, which will feature business and casual attire; and a lot more.

It’s free to attend, but registration is required. The expo is for girls ages 11 to 18, but families are invited, too. Visit to register and get more information.

The Southern is a co-sponsor of the event.

Caritas Family Solutions receives grant for Multisystemic Therapy

CARTERVILLE – Caritas Family Solutions was awarded a $60,000 grant from the Illinois Association of Juvenile Justice Councils to support the Multisystemic Therapy (MST) program offered through its Regional Office in Carterville. The grant funding was made available through the Violence Prevention Project for a target audience of at-risk youth from 12 to 17 in Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson and Saline counties.

Multisystemic Therapy is a family and community-based treatment for juveniles with complex social, clinical and educational issues. It strives to change how youth function in their natural settings – home, school and neighborhood – in ways that promote positive social behavior and decrease anti-social behavior. Services are provided at the youth’s home.

“This intensive, in-home therapy usually lasts around four months,” Jessica Hutton of Caritas said.

Caritas has provided MST services since 2014. However, they used to be available to only a small number of clients. The grant will allow Caritas to offer MST services to a larger number of people.

“The grant is a one-shot deal,” Hutton said.

Caritas Family Solutions has provided MST services since 2014. Initial funding for MST at Caritas was secured through Union County’s participation in Redeploy Illinois, a state-wide program to decrease juvenile incarceration through community programs that maintain public safety and promote positive outcomes for youth. With the additional grant funding from the IAJCC, Caritas can expand MST services to a wider geographic area with a less restrictive referral process.

During an open house on April 9, Caritas staff introduced the program to those who might refer a youth. Referrals are a simple form that asks questions about the youth’s behavior and desired outcomes.

Therapists empower parents and caregivers to focus the youth on school and gaining job skills as well as introducing them to recreational activities as an alternative to negative behaviors. Evidence has shown that MST significantly reduces arrest rates and incarceration costs. More information is available at