“The Making of Feel Your Best Self: Development and Scriptwriting” Online Forum on 11/10

As part of the 2022 Fall Puppet Forum Series, the Ballard Institute will host “The Making of Feel Your Best Self: Development and Scriptwriting” moderated by Sandy Chafouleas and Emily Wicks and featuring Sarah Nolen and Yanniv Frank on Thursday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. ET. This forum will take place on Zoom (registration required) and Facebook Live and will be available afterwards on the Ballard Institute’s Facebook page and YouTube Channel

In this forum, Feel Your Best Self creators Sandy Chafouleas and Emily Wicks and script writers Sarah Nolen and Yanniv Frank talk about the development of this unique interdisciplinary collaboration between UConn’s Collaboratory on School and Child Health and Ballard Institute to use puppetry to promote emotional well-being in elementary-aged children. The team discusses the challenges and methods used to take wellness strategies, such as “belly breathing” and “shake out the yuck” and turn them into simple, yet engaging stories starring three puppet friends, Nico, Mena, and CJ.

Feel Your Best Self is designed for elementary-aged kids as an educational toolkit for learning strategies to calm yourself, catch your feelings, and connect with others. The FYBS strategies offer fun and easy ways to help kids (and grown-ups) experience lifts in emotions, feeling, or mood. The toolkit, which features short videos, facilitator steps, reflection journals, strategy cards, and tip sheets, is free and accessible on the website. 


Sandra M. Chafouleas, Ph.D., is a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor and Neag Endowed Professor in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Chafouleas also is the founder and co-director of the UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health (CSCH). She is a licensed psychologist, and teaches primarily in the school psychology program. Dr. Chafouleas makes frequent media appearances, and authors a popular Psychology Today blog on promoting student well-being. Her work focuses on assisting schools in implementation of evidence-informed policies and practices that support the whole child, with specific expertise in strategies to support mental health and emotional well-being. 

For more information: education.uconn.edu/person/sandra-chafouleas

Yanniv Frank is a Sesame Workshop trained puppeteer and a current member of the cast of Sesame Street: The Musical, playing Off-Broadway. He is a current third year Puppet Arts MFA candidate at the University of Connecticut and a graduate of the CUNY Baccalaureate program for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies where he studied Performing and Visual Arts. As an actor, Yanniv has performed in various educational and professional theaters and received Hunter College’s Theatre Workshop Award for the most promising student actor. Yanniv holds a certificate in music and video production from Berklee College of Music and is releasing his first full length album As I Am in November 2022.

Sarah Nolen is a puppeteer and filmmaker known for her versatile and witty work across multiple puppetry styles. Originally from Texas, Sarah now resides in Massachusetts, where she works as a freelance puppeteer, director, and puppet builder for both stage and screen through her company Puppet Motion. She received her MFA in Puppet Arts at the University of Connecticut in 2016. Currently, she is the resident artist at Puppet Showplace Theater in Brookline, MA, where she tours her own solo puppet shows around New England. As a builder, Sarah earned a Drama Desk Award nomination for “Outstanding Puppet Design” for her work with Sinking Ship Productions’ A Hunger Artist. She has interned with Puppet Heap in Hoboken, built with AchesonWalsh Studios, and most recently, built and performed puppets for Netflix’s DON’T LOOK UP (2021) and another upcoming release, MOTHERSHIP (2023).

You can learn more about her work at her website: puppetmotion.com

Emily Wicks is the Interim Co-Director of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry (BIMP). She received her MA in History and MLIS degree, with a specialization in Museum Studies and Archival Management, from Kent State University in Ohio. She has experience in cultural resource management, historical research, and museums. Before joining the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, Emily worked for the Shaker Historical Society in Shaker Heights, Ohio and the ACLU of Ohio.