Thirty-five 1st – 4th grade children from the BELL program at The Murphy School in Dorchester visited Boston Children's Museum on July 14th and attended a workshop led by two of the city's leading storytellers, Sara Sweet Rabidoux Kelsey of Epicenter Experience and recent winner of The Moth Grand Slam at the Cutler Majestic Theater in March, 2017, and Amanda Goodwin, Head of Storytelling and Stewardship at Life is Good, and also a Moth storytelling winner. Kelsey and Goodwin worked with the BELL program children on a series of games and exercises designed to teach storytelling skills. They will visit the children back at their school and help them define, refine, and practice their own unique stories.
“Storytelling is a deeply fundamental human skill that connects us to our culture and our community and builds our own sense of self,” said Carole Charnow, President & CEO, Boston Children's Museum. “The ability to tell a story is an intrinsic part of being a child, and leads to language, literacy and socio-emotional development. Sharing a story, and listening to a story, connects the teller and the listener. It is an emotional transaction that binds people together in ways that is both deep and memorable. This project is helping kids to develop skills that they'll use throughout their lives – not just how to tell their own meaningful stories, but how to listen, and to do so with purpose and empathy.”
Storytelling is experiencing a rebirth in the adult world. The growing popularity of podcasts and live storytelling events such as TED Talks, The Moth, This American Life, and Snap Judgement has brought new appreciation for the spoken word. To some degree, social media has heightened interest in the stories of others, yet these media may offer only the most superficial surface scratch of the depth a good story can reach. Good storytelling offers something more: the intimacy and connection of someone sharing events from their life—extraordinary or mundane—in person. Adults are increasingly seeking out chances to hear other people's stories, and often to tell their own.
"We believe that people are the epicenter and that the experience they have with you defines the relationship," said Paul Krasinski, Founder and CEO of Epicenter Experience. "The collaboration with Boston Children's Museum and BELL embodies these values. Together, we are creating an experience for kids to tell their story in an engaging and collaborative way. An ability to present, express yourself, and be creative continues to be one of the most critical life skills. We hope that, through this workshop, these young people spark a lifelong fondness for creativity and collaboration and become the next leaders of the creative class. We certainly have and will learn a tremendous amount from them."
For the weeks following the Museum workshop, the children have worked with their teachers, back at their summer program, to develop their own stories. The project's storytellers will visit the children at The Murphy School, and help them “workshop” their stories, preparing them for their performance back at the Museum.
"This is a wonderful partnership that teaches our scholars how to find their voice through storytelling," expressed John Nguyen, Massachusetts Director of Program Operations for BELL. “One of BELL's teachers, Ms. Ryan, shared that "we had a new student on the day of the field trip. In the beginning of the day, she was shy and didn't interact with any of her classmates. Through the workshop's activities, you could see her find a safe space where she interacted with her new classmates and came away with a smile by the end of the day. She loves coming to the BELL program every day because of her experience at Boston Children's Museum. She is finding her own unique space with new friends!" And a Parent Volunteer from BELL had this to say: "This is a wonderful experience for my daughter. I wish everyone could have this same experience, and I feel very fortunate that my daughter got a chance to do something unique and amazing!"
This collaboration presents an opportunity to bring together some of Boston's children with talented storytellers to give them the chance to not only develop the skills of storytelling and intentional listening but also to express their own unique voices. It is an opportunity for listeners to show that that there is value in those voices.