I have been chosen to work with four other artists on the Stories Alive! project, which runs across five nursery schools in Burnley through 2015. The project aims to bring together children, parents, nursery staff and the wider community, to raise literacy attainment through storytelling.
Each nursery was allocated a dedicated artist to work with them throughout the school year, with several artist visits and training days. I am working with Basnett Street Nursery School.
Celebration day 1
The children were introduced to the project through a visit to Burnley Youth Theatre, where they met several of the project’s artists and enjoyed a walk through their imaginations, going “into the woods” and making their own stories with their key workers.
The stories were written on paper leaves to stick on “Story trees” to display at nursery (pictured below)
Workshop day 1
I visited the nursery for a “Gruffalo Day”, and took the children on a sensory adventure around the story. They walked round the forest area while listening to the story, made playdough models of the story characters, tasted Gruffalo foods (Scrambled “snake”, “Gruffalo” crumble etc), and helped me tell the story using puppets. We looked at a storyboard to help the children understand the order events happen in the story. We had a wonderful day, and the staff and children learned a lot.
Workshop day 2
This time I took the key workers out of the classroom to work on storytelling techniques. I observed each of them telling their favourite stories to th
eir key groups. I noticed that while everyone had particular skills, the way to bring out the best in everyone would involve sharing the best of these skills across the group. I took notes about each key worker’s strengths and areas for development, and assigned them each one person to help them with a particular skill, and one person they should help in turn. I made a story sack for the book “Someone Bigger” by Jonathan Emmett and Adrian Reynolds, and used this story sack to demonstrate how they can best be used to enhance all areas of the curriculum. I asked the key workers to begin thinking about making their own story sacks in anticipation of the INSET day I’m delivering in late May.
Workshop day 3
This workshop was all about getting the children out to the Forest School area, and showing children and staff how much fun can be had from telling stories there. We went on a “Bear Hunt”, journeying together through long wavy grass, a deep, cold river, thick oozy mud, a thick dark forest, a swirling whirling snowstorm and into a narrow gloomy cave, where we found the bear we’d been hunting!
Once we made it back “home” safe and well, I took the children on a sensory journey through the story, getting them to think about the textures, feelings, temperatures and sounds found within the story. We played musical instruments, compared twigs and tickled grass as we thought about the story in the context of the Forest School area. We drew pictures of elements of the story, adding mud, water and sand to make the pictures really come to life. We made muddy footprints on paper, and looked at the patterns and sizes of the prints we made.
Everyone was messy, muddy and tired out by the end of the day, but we all (storyteller, staff and children alike) had a whale of a time, and learned a lot about the opportunities and resources available in the Forest School area.
I led an INSET day for the staff, to review our progress in the project and to develop their use of the outdoors as a storytelling resource. I had set them all the task of creating and resourcing their own storysacks, and they rose to the challenge brilliantly. Each staff member had made a different storysack, based on their favourite children’s book, and used their skills to help each other. I explained how they could use the storysacks in the Forest School area, to bring the stories to life, and we discussed ways to use natural resources to add to the stories.
I took the staff outside to look for natural objects, then we used those resources to make our own stories. The staff split into two groups, and made two quite different stories from their objects. They built the objects into books to share with the children, and incorporated the objects into the pages (which involved me sewing bark onto a page at one point!)
By the end of the day we had two completed books made, and the staff had increased confidence in several areas, including using the outdoor area for storytelling, and involving the children in making up stories.
Towneley Hall Celebration Day
Over a scorching hot couple of days, all the artists and schools got together in Towneley Hall grounds to follow trails, helping build a story to bring the summer. The children solved problems, played music, worked together and walked through the woods as part of the day’s story building.
The artists have created a worksheet resource to help schools, community groups and parents make stories come alive. You can download it free here.