As a LIVE interactive storytelling program, The Story Table encourages kids to create, think and move! By facilitating high levels of creativity and imagination, kids learn communication skills as well as timeless lessons from stories. In addition, the Story Table strives to bridge generational and cultural divides by welcoming diverse guest storytellers and inviting family and elder participation. By incorporating the following values and structures, each Story Table session is an adventure!
To promote greater imagination, kids are invited to contribute original ideas to the story. Then, they are asked to imagine themselves or objects at home into these ideas. For example, we might transform blankets into wings or vacuums into fishing poles! Through this practice of improvisation, kids experience:
Creative play - vital for childhood development
Resourcefulness - by thinking outside the box
Self confidence - by contributing to the story
As we learn in many of the old stories, dance is one of the best ways to celebrate! Consequently, every Story Table session includes dancing to some of the world's best music! Using a traditional teaching technique called mirroring, participants take turns leading and following each other's movements. Since 90% of communication is non-verbal, and because research shows that dance is one of the healthiest activities for our mind and body, we dance for almost 15 minutes! This has become a joyful activity where the whole family and even pets join together in the celebration!
After experiencing a story, participants are asked to quietly draw "what did you hear in the story?" In this way, kids not only have personal time to creatively process the story, but also draw from their own interpretations and experiences. Because a picture is worth a thousands words, the drawings are not only excercises in creativity, but also good "notes" on the story's lessons. This is demonstrated when kids are invited to talk about their drawings. As they describe what they drew, they naturally re-tell major parts of the story back - an important pedagogical (and ancient) practice in practicing how to remember a story.
Observing the large amount of passive (one-way) communication cultivated by much of today's entertainment technology, the Story Table is committed to fostering active, (two-way) communication with participants. This is achieved through exclusively LIVE sessions (In-person or Zoom), where the storyteller can converse, draw and dance with kids in real time. Because kids know that their questions, drawings, ideas and dance movements are listened to, each session guarantees to be a unique and positive learning experience.
In addition to departing from relatively passive pre-recorded children's programming, the Story Table is rooted in new childhood development research (known as Multiple Intelligence Theory) which confirms that a diversity of learning styles leads to greater comprehension. At the Story Table, this is encouraged by inviting kids to actually use their whole bodies to learn! This important theory is interestingly exemplified by the ancient Chinese character for listen - Ting, which expands the concept of listening to include our eyes and heart. Inspired by these teachings, and Nicholas' own experience with non-verbal communication and dance, every Story Table session is grounded in the practice of listening with one's eyes, ears, hands, feet and heart.
Elder & Family Participation
Having worked within senior and juvenile circles for years, Nicholas observed that children's programing is significantly more effective with the presence of even a single elder - children tend to be calmer and more respectful, while elders are enlivened and feel valued! This healthy dynamic is conducive to building sustainable learning environments, as well as cultivating a more authentic sense of community.
Similarly, Nicholas sees how families benefit when they are able to participate in activities together. Because the Story Table presents stories and music which grown ups can also appreciate, both young and old participants can enjoy an interactive experience which builds relationships of trust.
It is tremendously important that children not only have increased access and opportunity to learn from diverse cultures, but that they can also see teachers who look like themselves. By building trust and familiarity with Nicholas 'round the table, children are able to more quickly accept guest storytellers who would otherwise be viewed as strangers. In this way, children not only interact with some of the world's best storytellers but also develop a personal relationship with the stories themselves!
Because most fairy tales are hundreds of years old, and have relationships with landscapes, Story Table broadcasts are frequently done from on-site outdoor locations. Achieved by connecting several hundred feet of ethernet cable to a modem, these outdoor broadcasts not only add beauty and excitement to a session, but more importantly, explore our own relationship with it. Told from castle walls, alpine mountain tops, or alligator filled swamps, stories not only help us better understand our environment, but the part we play in it as well.
To conclude, we offer a breath of thanks to:
The story - because it too is a creation that has its own energy and evolving history.
The storytellers - both he/she who just told it, the animal who shared it* and our ancestors who carried it before us.
Each other - just the way we are.
*While many stories are now collected in books, most are inherited from ancient oral traditions. By saying that an animal or bird told him the story, (an old practice), Nicholas honors the obscure legacy of the story and subtly asks the question, "where do stories come from?"
In these challenging times, it is crucial that creativity nurtures our children's imagination, sustains their mental and physical health, and helps build their capacity to relate justly with others.
(A minute by minute breakdown of how Story Table sessions are run can be found on the Elementary page.)