The idea for this project, Exploring Stories from Cultures, Near and Far came from part of our school's mission statement, to educate and enrich all learners through the integration of arts, science, and ideas. The art of storytelling is not one of the art forms that is offered at our school as we have drama, visual art, music, and movement. We wanted to expose our students and teachers to another form of art that they didn't have much experience with and decided to get Storyteller Pam Faro as our visiting artist.
The next decision was the theme for the storytelling project as there are many options. We looked at the diverse population of our school as we have an ELL magnet program and an upcoming International Day and decided to explore stories from various cultures in the world. We felt this would open up some great learning opportunities school-wide. We discussed this idea with Pam during her initial visit to the site and we worked together to come up with a plan that would be a good fit for our school.
Pam worked with each of our 4th and 5th grade classes for an hour during their normal Drama elective on storytelling. The students were given some initial information about storytelling beforehand to get them thinking about it. She told them stories and discussed with them the elements of storytelling and why it was a unique art form. The stories Pam told were internationally themed and were highly engaging. Lots of discussion took place on how it was similar to and different from Drama. She also played games with them that helped teach elements of storytelling. One game was similar to hot and cold with students using applause to help their classmate find an object. The students were highly engaged and loved it! It was a very clever way to teach that one of the skills a storyteller needs to have is the ability to read an audience and make changes as necessary. I'm sure this is a skill in which teachers can relate.
The primary grades were split between two performances where Pam told them stories about the talking animals and the stories were also culturally themed. Both performances had lots of audience participation and were both very age appropriate. Throughout the whole process, the room, no matter how big or small, became still when Pam told a story.
The last part of the storytelling journey involved Pam coming to visit our school during a professional development day to work with teachers for a three-hour session. Similar to the students, teachers were also very engaged when listening to Pam's stories, which she wove in throughout her three hours. As a group we discussed the different elements of storytelling, how it differed from other art forms, and some ideas of how we would integrate it into our classrooms. One of the highlights included playing a game (pictures below) that where we acted like we had one item and then passed it on to another. This showed some quick thinking, creativity, and movement. Pam also shared with the staff some good storytelling resources, a few of which we purchased as a staff.
The da Vinci Academy loved having Pam at our school, not just to entertain us with her entertaining stories, but also to teach us the essence of storytelling and how it can bring many different cultures together.