Storytelling town

I am now working in the storytelling capital of the world, Jonesborough, Tenn. One of my assignements at the end of October was to write about a new afterschool class that is taking place, “Story to Performance.”

Jules is teaching the youngsters what a story is . . .

It was really cute to see the kids turn their interviews into plays that included all kinds of props from the classroom. It’s a great class, one which the kids all said they enjoyed.

Students Learning through story

Published in the Herald & Tribune Nov. 12, 2013

Students from the afterschool “Story to Performance” class at Jonesborough Elementary School are putting together a radio show that feature stories and music they have created.

They will perform the play for the community at the McKinney center at Booker T. Washington School later this month.

Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts Outreach Program Director Jules Corriere began working with six students, ages 6 to 12, in the new “Story to Performance” pilot class in September.

The class was made possible through a two-year, $17,000 youth endowment grant program from the East Tennessee Foundation in Knoxville.

Last year the grant money went towards training staff. This year, the afterschool program was implemented.

“The project that we are doing is in association with EPIC Revolutions, an anti bullying program,” Town Administrator Bob Browning said. “It’s a character building program.”

Leaders decided to use story as a basis to help enhance self-confidence and self-esteem in the children.

“Being a storytelling town, we are tuned into the fact that the use of story can be a great vehicle to engage kids in community building and relationship building,” Browning said.

“Story to Performance” is held once a week for an hour at Jonesborough Elementary School.

The class involves special guests on occasion from the local Storytelling Guild, as well as many hands-on opportunities for the kids to learn the knack of storytelling.

“What’s amazing is the growth I have seen in all of these kids and the empowerment they are feeling and exhibiting,” Corriere said.

During one class session late last month, the students shared the stories they learned through interviews they conducted with individuals older than them. They dis so using such methods as poetry, skits and pictures they created on story boards.

Rhett Carver, 10 and his sister Ella, 8, made their homework assignment come alive through a performance that told a story of their father when he was younger.

In order to enhance the story, Rhett took charge as the director.
“I like to direct,” Rhett said.

What started out as a simple production, eventually included props found around the classroom and sounds of drums created by the students banging on objects to enhance the overall message of the story.

“We are teaching the kids what a story is – the important elements, how to tell a story and how to turn it into a performance piece,” Corriere said.

It seems to be working.

Jasmine Speer, 12, said her love of storytelling has expanded over the years and her interest in becoming an actress has intensified.

“I think it’s fun,” she said of storytelling. “It’s interesting and expands my knowledge of the world.”

Aisling Hagan, 12, has taken her love of writing and put it to use to create a family newsletter.

Now, Hagan also has a 30-40 second bit on the radio show “A Night with the Yarn Exchange,” providing her with writing and editing experience.

The students’ own production, “Junior Yarnspinners,” will be in the format of a radio show featuring real stories with real people, comedy skits and music written by students.

They will perform it on Thursday, NOv. 21, from 7-7:30 p.m. at the McKinney cente.r The public is invited to attend.

“The show will engage other community members  of different ages,” Corriere said. “It has provided the kids with all kinds of help and guidance.”

Browning said the town has established a mechanism that will allow them to continue the program even after the grant money is used.

“I am hoping to have a lot more students and engage a lot more students for the spring semester,” Corriere said. “I’ve had direct talks with some of the counselors and vice principal to see what students would be encouraged with this, would benefit from it.”

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