“The Misadventures of Peter Rabbit in Farmer McGregor’s Vegetable Garden”
Entering its sixth year, “The Misadventures of Peter Rabbit in Farmer McGregor’s Vegetable Garden,” an interactive and educational puppet show, presented by the Sussex County Master Gardeners, Delaware Cooperative Extension, has reached more than 9,000 children, primarily in the five- to eight-year-old age groups. Older children and adults also indicate they have learned something.
Sussex County is Delaware’s most rural, agricultural county. Even though our children are surrounded by farms, most kids know little about where their food comes from. “Are those vegetables real?” is a question we regularly hear from kids. Many children have never held a raw potato, do not know that potatoes grow under the ground, and often do not realize that French fries are potatoes. Additionally, Sussex County has an increasingly multicultural, diverse population, and there are a large variety of ways vegetables are prepared in their homes.
Inspired, but very loosely based on the Beatrix Potter version, this typically 30-minute presentation focuses on bits of botany, agriculture, food culture, nutrition, entomology, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM). However, it is quite different from the book we all know. When Peter is tricked by Ripley Rat (he’s not a Beatrix Potter character) and loses his money to Ripley, he faces a moral dilemma until he is convinced by Ripley it is okay to help himself to Farmer McGregor’s vegetables.
The interactive show then focuses on Farmer McGregor, a look-alike Master Gardener, talking with the children about how vegetables are grown and the parts of the vegetable plants we eat. The children learn the “fruits of the vine” (tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers), the leafy vegetables (cabbage, lettuce, greens), the roots, tubers, and bulbs (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions), the seeds (corn, beans, peas), and the flowers (broccoli and cauliflower).
Peter interacts with the children about the nutritional benefits and how the vegetables are prepared (cooked and raw, plain and seasoned, whole and shredded, alone or with other foods).
A busy bee talks about gathering nectar and pollen for the hive, and both the bee and a beautiful butterfly talk about the importance of pollination. A ladybug beetle and a Japanese beetle talk about whether they are “good” or “bad” bugs in the garden, and a large predator, a praying mantis, dispatches a Japanese beetle.
When Farmer McGregor returns to find his vegetables gone, the audience admits that Peter stole his vegetables. McGregor threatens to make bunny burgers out of Peter, and a chase scene erupts which the children thoroughly enjoy. The show concludes with Peter admitting his transgression to Farmer McGregor and wishing to work to pay him back. They jointly open an organic vegetable farm stand. Even Ripley Rat is convinced that vegetables are better than candy and “all’s well that ends well.”
Everyone gets a sticker emblazoned with Peter’s picture and “I love vegetables”
The Peter Rabbit players perform in the Peter Rabbit garden in the Sussex County Demonstration Garden, at libraries, schools, 4-H clubs and other youth groups, daycare centers, farmers markets, churches, garden clubs, community festivals, and anywhere else there are children who love a good story and willingly eat their vegetables.
The props are lightweight and portable for “on the road” shows. The backdrop features a photo of the painted fence behind the Peter Rabbit garden in our Demonstration Garden. It’s supported by a simply-made PVC pipe structure for both inside and outside performances. At times, a long table laden with vegetables invites the children to “Please Touch the Vegetables” or in smaller venues, children sit in a circle and the vegetables are passed around. In between shows at festivals, Farmer McGregor, Peter Rabbit, and other puppeteers roam the grounds handing out tickets (produced by a simple Word document) with the show times listed to encourage the children to attend.
Costs are minimal with volunteer time and effort. Also included with the script is basic budget information: $100.00 will buy enough puppets to start. $200.00 will buy a menagerie. A backdrop is not necessary, but the cost is around $170.00. To build the PVC pipe support is around $50.00. Stickers could be printed on a home computer or thousands can be ordered for a few hundred dollars. Fresh vegetables and gas money for each performance are minimal.
Part of the fun is to ad-lib. All you really need are a few Master Gardeners who enjoy children.
For More Information: Contact Tammy Schirmer at (302) 856-2585, extension 544 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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