Artists as Action Researchers

The Bridges model and curriculum were collaboratively developed through inquiry, implementation, reflection and revision

What did the Artists Mentors do?

The Artist Mentors modeled Bridges practices and curricula. They co-taught and mentored classroom teachers and worked with them to adapt activities. With the design team, they interpreted their findings to create streamlined, relevant and liberatory strategies. Meet all the action researchers.

  • Donna Maria DeCreeft, a white woman with white and grey hair, sitting with a student at his desk looking with curious enthusiasm as he works on his collage. A collage made by Donna Maria that looks like a patchwork quilt.

    Donna Maria deCreeft

    Active 2014-2022

    Donna Maria deCreeft (she/her) is an artist whose teaching has always reflected her experimental and open-ended studio process. In Bridges, she was deeply involved in researching play and empowering children through creating authentic spaces for social and emotional learning. Donna Maria originated the Exploratory Collage Lesson which influenced other Exploratory Arts Lessons. In her words, “Bridges’ holistic and age-appropriate approach gave me new tools to integrate play as a primary learning experience into my teaching practice. The process of exploring materials, discovering how things worked and making their own connections to the real-world fostered students’ curiosity and informed their academic learning. Best of all, creative activities that were structured to incorporate play sparked their imaginations, regardless of their ages, different learning styles, abilities, o

  • Rima Fand, a white woman with curly black hair, sitting in front of a group of students playing a hand drum. Rima wearing sunglasses during a performance outside where she is singing and playing the violin.

    Rima Fand

    Active 2014-2022

    Rima Fand (she/her) is a theater composer and musician and has composed music professionally for puppet shows for many years. She loves how puppetry directly accesses the world of the imagination and provides so many entry points for students. Rima was critical in helping adapt Bridges activities and resources to music based artforms. In her own words, “‘Play How You Feel’, which you can see on this website, has become a beloved warm up in my classes. I feel like it really allows students to bring their authentic selves into the room, and also to learn about the power of music to express emotions and tell stories. It also gives me, the teacher, an opportunity to deeply notice my students’ musical choices as they are inventing.”

  • Kari Morris, a white non-binary person wearing a big rainbow hat with rectangular classes with pursed lips and wide eyes. Kari standing in front of a table of teachers as they lead them at a Bridges PD.

    Kari Morris

    Active 2014-2022

    Kari Morris (they/she) is an award-winning writer and multi-hyphenate performer. In Bridges, Kari was instrumental in revising the 5 Senses Journey Planner and other graphic organizers based on feedback from classroom teachers. They also coined “The Secret Set Up”: the practice of affirming the range of available choices to students when setting up an activity to make space for expedited, revealed, and deepened expression of their artistic voice. In Kari’s own words, “I loved watching how the creative flow of Bridges activities would deepen a classroom community. Students would open up, let go, release and feel connected to themselves, each other and their teacher in a new, empowering, and joyous way. Teachers would often experience the same within themselves. They would build language together, but ultimately build each other up.”

  • Sarah Provost, a white woman, holding up a student's artwork as they smile and laugh as they look at it together. Two puppeteers in straw boater hats holding shadow puppet frames.

    Sarah Provost

    Active 2014-2022

    Sarah Provost (she/her) is a multi-disciplinary artist who is passionate about collaboration and bringing stories to life. The tools Sarah uses when building the world of her own stories impacted and helped bring to life the 5 Senses Journey, a foundational activity in Bridge 2: Multi-sensory Immersion. Sarah saw the opportunity to use the magical experience of the 5 Senses Journey not only to add detail to students’ artwork, but also to their writing. In her own words, “Bridges allowed me to go deep and build a teaching practice that felt truly authentic to me.”

  • SJ Munford, a white non-binary person, sitting next to a student at their table smiling and laughing while they rub glue off their hands. SJ puppeteering a shadow puppet cloud of arrows falling onto the shadow of a bird puppet.

    SJ Munford

    Active 2018-2023

    SJ Munford (she/they) is a puppeteer and interdisciplinary artist. As an Action Researcher, SJ focused on disrupting traditional classroom power dynamics and creating a process based space for students to drive their own exploration of who they are as artists. SJ was particularly influential in developing lessons where students become the experts and teachers. In their own words, “Bridges was a special kind of collaboration to get to be a part of. The work not only impacted my teaching, but also offered tremendous growth for me as an artist and human.”

  • Susanna Brock, a white woman performing in a theater piece. Susanna standing in a circle with a group of excited students in a classroom.

    Susanna Brock

    Active 2018-2022

    Susanna Brock (she/her) is a theater maker, performer, director and educator. Her passion for shifting power dynamics in the classroom and focus on following the students and their ideas most impacted the Bridges research, especially around play and process. Bridges helped Susanna develop a foundation for teaching puppetry and visual art: emotion statues and the Notice Describe Ask Descriptive Language Process are cornerstones in her teaching. In Susanna’s own words, “The paper collage and tearing paper protocol had a strong impact on me and my artistry. It helped me understand that I am an artist who gets very inspired by materials and the process itself.”

  • Ron Sopyla, a white man with a white beard, holding up a large puppet head made from moss and other earth materials. Ron standing in front of a group of students facilitating a Bridges activity.

    Ronald Sopyla

    Active 2018-2022

    Ronald Sopyla (he, him) is a storyteller, actor and  puppeteer who is in love with imagination and returns to the question, “What if?” to guide his projects. As an educator with Bridges, Ron brought his passion for storytelling and drama to activities like the 5 Senses Journey and Grow to the Beat, turning them into mini-dramas with dialogue and plot. In his own words, “ The Notice Describe Ask Descriptive Language Process was vital: it  is something I have taken with me and try to impart to the teachers I work with. It’s a respectful way to acknowledge the work of all the children. It frees us from saying vague, often dishonest statements that do not build capacity in children.”

  • Laine Barton, a white woman, leading a group of students with arms raised up in a Bridges activity in their classroom. A shadow puppet bridge projected on a sheet with Laine puppeteering on the side.

    Laine Barton

    Active 2018-2022

    Laine Barton (she/her) is a puppetry and circus artist. Her clown performance experiences in hospitals made her particularly aware of strategies that lead children into “play and engagement ”.  Laine collaborated deeply on our understanding that by having one’s emotions, movements, artwork, or reflections sensitively “Noticed and Described”, children feel acknowledged, are more focused and are able to go deeper into their thinking or artwork.  Her own work was likewise deepened from her Bridges experience. In her own words, “I feel like I have more options in my teaching, more resources if I need them, and I’m able to pay more attention to the students’ work.”

  • Kirsten Kammermyer, an indigenous woman, holding up a puppet in front of a classroom. Kirsten posing with a blue gremlin hand puppet at the summit of her hike.

    Kirsten Kammemyer

    Active 2014-2018

    Kirsten D. Kammermeyer (she/her) is a Theater artist who uses puppetry, humor, and the process of play to engage, delight, and encourage small humans to be curious, thoughtful, brave, and to HAVE FUN with their own creations. Kirsten’s research work in Bridges focused on connecting students and teachers on a different level utilizing specific tools to help them communicate with each other.  Out of this research came The Emotion Mapping Tool, a chart that illustrates the wide range of emotions beyond “happy, sad, and mad.” This chart not only expanded students’ emotional vocabulary but helped everyone in the classroom better understand and empathize with their own feelings, and those of others around them. This is known on this website as The Emotion Mapping Tool. In her own words, “Just like its namesake, Bridges enables its participants to explore and make connections, u

  • Ed Woodham, a bald white man, seated in front of a class at the rug leading them in a physicalization activity. Four figures and a dog posing in a field with trees and mountains behind them.

    Ed Woodham

    Active 2014-2018

    Ed Woodham (he/him, they/them) is a  queer visual and performance artist, curator, and educator. In his Bridges research, Ed found the focus of abstraction in puppetry and set design gave everyone a level playing field offering a collective sense of accomplishment and success. Ed created strong relationiships with classroom teacher research partners and in his own words, “This mutual ease gave me clear information on how to: best serve their needs, intuit the situation(s) of the day, and integrate myself unobtrusively into the classroom dynamic – which allowed us to naturally develop a collaborative language necessary for the research. And made it fun.”



  • Chris Ignacio, a Filipino American man, working enthusiastically with two students in a classroom. Chris standing inside of and puppeteering a large scale parade style puppet.

    Chris Ignacio

    Active 2020-2021?3

    Chris Ignacio (he/him) is a theater artist, puppeteer and Jack of all trades. As a Bridges researcher, Chris was interested in encouraging and uplifting the voices and stories of young people in the classroom and found a deep sense of fulfillment in that focus. In his own words, “Bridges is exciting to me because it invites teachers to explore Play as an opportunity for learning and engaging students. It relates to my work as a puppeteer and theater artist because this is how we devise work, through Play.”



  • Headshot of Psacoya Guinn, a black woman with long black hair and a warm smile. Psacoya onstage performing in a play.

    Psacoya Guinn

    Active 2020-2021?

    Psacoya Guinn (she/her) is an actor and educator. Her Bridges research focused on literacy connections through theatrical storytelling and how we tell stories with our bodies and voices. In her own words, “I learned that this work is effective and needed in classrooms and serves as support for teachers.”



  • Mackenzie McBride, a white woman with blonde hair, crouched down next to a student's table as they describe their drawing to her. Mackenzie standing and giggling in a group of performers holding binders open while they rehearse.

    Mackenzie McBride

    Active in 2018

    Mackenzie McBride (she/her) is primarily a playwright and poet and occasionally an actor. Lately, she has also evolved into a social worker and therapist  incorporating art and theatre into social emotional support. Mackenzie was an excellent model for how to incorporate descriptive language from arts into classroom literacy programs and supported teachers finding ways to be playful and silly with their students. In her own words, “The work we did in Bridges engaged students at every level of their imagination. The spaces we created were never flat or two-dimensional, they were always robust and full. I learned to apply these complexities to all of my work with students and ultimately I became more skilled at marrying arts with academics.”

  • Jojo Gonzales, a Filipino man, standing in front of a classroom with a torn paper puppet and drum. Headshot of Jojo smiling in a park.

    Jojo Gonzales

    Active 2023

    Jojo Gonzalez (He/Him) is a veteran Teaching Artist and Actor. As a Teaching Artist, he has collaborated with countless children all over the city to create original theatrical presentations based on the children’s imagination. Through a combination of Rhythm, Rhyme, Vocal and Environmental Sound Patterns and Choral Speak, Jojo guides the class in an exploration of characters and environment which becomes the foundation of the script.

    The Torn Paper Collage activity compliments this aspect of Jojo’s teaching practice and opened a door to another way his students can explore and create characters and settings. It also introduces the students to one of the pillars of Improvisation, “YES AND”, which is a vital step in creating an ensemble. In Jojo’s own words, “Torn Paper Collage is simple and does not require experience so participation and success is high. For

  • Erin Orr, a white woman with long brown hair featured in two images: in one she holds a puppet in front of her, in the other, she is seated on a classroom rug, smiling enthusiastically as she watches four kids practice their puppet show for her.

    Erin Orr

    Active 2014-2018

    Erin Orr (she/her) is a visual storyteller who’s performed internationally as a professional puppeteer since 1998. As a teaching artist, she’s worked in NYC Public Schools for over 20 years, specializing in early-childhood. She’s the Bridges Artist Mentor and Curriculum Specialist and also worked directly in Bridges gr. 1 & 2 classes as a Teaching Artist Mentor for two years.  She and her classroom teacher partners focused on 1) developing protocols and tools to notice and describe the choices kids make across expressive media, and 2) supporting and observing kids engaged in creating and playing with puppets. Erin created the ‘5-shapes Many Emotions’ and ‘2-Face Puppet’ activities. Bridges research has impacted Erin’s teaching practice by giving her better tools to create child-driven, exploratory, and process-oriented art making spaces in classrooms


Meet the other action researchers

The artist mentors worked in collaboration with the Bridges design team, school partners and classroom teachers to do research, develop the model and create the resources on this website.