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Inventing Ida: How the Idealist Puppet Went from Idea to Reality

Angel Eduardo

Sarah McKenzie, Ami Dar, and the Idealist Puppet Ida - Idealist Days Blog

“Getting children involved in Idealist Days is necessary,” says Sarah McKenzie, an idealist and kindergarten teacher in New York City, who has been organizing Idealist Day activities with her Idealists of Northern New Jersey group since 3/3/2018. “Children are the future, and any community service or social justice work that is done by adults should always be shared with our future generations.” Sarah felt that the message of Idealist Days was especially good for the development of young people. “The reason I became a teacher was so that I can be an advocate for children, but also so that I can teach them to advocate for themselves and to care about other humans, plants, animals, and the world that they live in.” It was a wonderful idea, but the question remained: How best to do this?—and in the summer of 2018, it hit her.

“The reason I became a teacher was so that I can be an advocate for children, but also so that I can teach them to advocate for themselves and to care about other humans, plants, animals, and the world that they live in.”

“Growing up, I fell in love with the puppets on Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and the Muppet Show. Having a puppet deliver important information to children seemed like a logical choice.” Sarah envisioned shooting a video of Idealist founder Ami Dar discussing Idealist Days with a puppet. She started imagining this puppet and even sketched a few designs when she had another thought. “I knew that in order for the puppet to carry any significance within the Idealist community,” Sarah recalls, “people needed to be invested enough to want to share it with their children, grandchildren, and students. If it was going to truly represent Idealists of the World, then who and what it is couldn’t just exist inside my brain; it also needed to live in the hearts and minds of others.” So, Sarah decided to ask the people in the Idealists of the World Facebook group for their ideas and thoughts.

The Original Idealists of the World Facebook Post and Ida Sketches - Idealist Days Blog

The project quickly became a collaborative effort. There were cheers and words of encouragement, even suggestions for artists who could help make this idea a reality. Less than a month later, Sarah returned to the group with four sketches to vote on. Once the design was decided, a name needed to be chosen. Sarah knew the puppet’s name needed to be simple, easily translatable, and something that, one way or another, screamed Idealist. Collaboration, once again, came to the rescue. “I collected a lot of name suggestions and was racking my brain as to what made sense, and then Ami brilliantly said, ‘How about Ida?’ Just like that! And so she was Ida even before she was ‘born’—when she was still some sketches on pieces of paper.” Now that she had a design and a name ready, Sarah got to work finding someone to bring this idea to life. “After a lot of research I found Michelle Breedlove Sell’s Etsy shop, By Love Sells,” Sarah remembers. “I cannot even describe how wonderful it was working with Michelle! She was very responsive and it was a collaborative process, as she had her own suggestions and design ideas. I also shared with her the feedback I collected from the Idealists of the World.”

In October of 2018, mere months after proposing the idea on Facebook, Sarah revealed the completed puppet—full name, Ida D. Idealist—to the world. “I can't wait to take Ida to the Idealist office,” she wrote, “so she can meet Ami, all the Idealist staff, and see for herself where the magic happens! (Some of the magic anyway).” All that was left to complete the mission was to shoot the video with Ami that Sarah had originally envisioned. She wrote a script, and the video was shot, edited, and released in April 2019, with Sarah herself giving movement and lending a voice to Ida. In just a few short months, Ida went from a thought in Sarah’s head to a real, moving, talking, furry friend to Idealists everywhere.

The video with Ami and Ida was only the beginning. Since her unveiling, idealists from all over the globe have been suggesting ideas for wonderful ways Ida can inspire kids—and kids at heart!—to become idealists. From making videos to visiting classrooms to traveling to Idealist Day events all around the world, Sarah believes there’s no limit to what Ida can do to spread the word. “She’s come a long way, from idea to sketch to fully functioning Idealist monster, and my hope for her now is that she is able to reach many children and help them learn about Idealist Days. Hopefully, children all over will be able to hear Ida speak in their own language and encourage them to participate in helping to change the world.”

Inspired? Read more Ideas for Action Stories.

Learn more about Idealist Days and discover action opportunities in your area.

Join the Idealists of the World Facebook Group.

Live in the area and want to join Sarah’s next Idealist Day event? Learn more about The Idealists of Northern New Jersey.

Angel Eduardo

Angel Eduardo has been published in Newsweek, Areo Magazine, The Ocean State Review, The Caribbean Writer, and Mr. Beller's Neighborhood. More of his work can be found at angeleduardo.com.