Next week is Thanksgiving, and while thoughts turn to what we are most thankful for (which will be addressed in next week’s blog), I would like to talk this week about the value of storytelling. Holiday family gatherings always generate opportunity for stories. Generations often come together and share their collective experiences. Stories can connect us to each other in so many ways. We learn empathy, tolerance, and insight into ourselves through the tales of those connected to us. Grandparents share stories of the past, parents share stories of the present, and young children share stories that allow us to see into the future.
I am looking forward to spending Thanksgiving hearing stories from multiple generations. I will begin by enjoying the main Thanksgiving meal at the table of my grandchildren. Their school stories will remind me of the adventures I witness every day in lower school: active recess games, fall field trips, and holiday projects in the making. I will then travel south to celebrate my father’s eightieth birthday. He is a classic storyteller. After many years of family gatherings where he regaled us with his humorous tales of growing up, my father put his stories together in a collection that was bound into a book for all to enjoy. My brothers and sisters (there are six of us) will be gathered together and share with him our stories of growing up. How lucky I am to have such a rich, story-filled Thanksgiving!
In recent years there has been a national movement towards encouraging storytelling, or more specifically towards documenting oral histories. Every Friday, NPR has a feature know as Story Corps. They call themselves “America’s oral history project”. Founded in 2003, Story Corps has interviewed over 100,000 individuals resulting in over 60,000 interviews. These interviews talk of love, forgiveness, family ties, friendship, and so much more. If you have not had the opportunity to experience these oral histories, you may enjoy an introduction to the feature with the link below. Our own Bart Griffith recorded an interview with a colleague in Atlanta. They talk of the value of teaching and becoming life-long learners. This interview will now be documented in the Library of Congress.
Last year, third grade teacher, Jen Reiter, discovered the Story Corps app and inspired the third grade boys, along with many teachers, to record stories around the theme of baseball. The boys loved generating questions and documenting stories for the collective database.
This year, Story Corps is promoting a “Great Thanksgiving Listen” activity. Mrs. Reiter and I tried to imagine a way that the entire school could participate. I brainstormed ways that each boy could take their iPad home for the night or weekend and record the story of one older generation family member to be archived into the American Folklife Center at the United States Library of Congress. This was not a feasible option, so instead I encourage each of our Gilman lower school parents to consider having your son or sons engage in a conversation with another generation this holiday. If you want to record the conversation for posterity, you can download the Story Corps app and follow their directions. If an oral recording of the story is not feasible, a written narrative is just as much meaningful. Imagine the boys returning to school knowing they helped create “an archive of the wisdom of humanity”!
I hope that my communication with you each week encourages “talking points” to inspire weekend conversation with your son or sons. Here are some “talking points” for this weekend.
- If you are in Kindergarten- How was your special meal with PreFirst on Friday? What did you do to make a special placemat for the feast? Did you like the ideas of your classmates? When you were learning numbers this week- what are the three parts you talked about? (symbol, picture, word)
- If you are in Pre-First- How is your “turkey tango” coming along? What did you add to make a special placemat for your Thanksgiving celebration meal?
- If you are in First Grade- Tell me about your Squanto story book that you are making with your class. Are you planning something special with your big buddies next week?
- If you are in Second Grade- How are you using PicCollage to prepare an activity for Grandfriends Day? Are you and your classmates singing in the Thanksgiving assembly on Tuesday next week?
- If you are in Third Grade- Are you reading any interesting stories about Native Americans? Where are there still Native American tribes today? How are you coming memorizing your math facts?
- If you are in Fourth Grade- How are you preparing for Grandfriends Day?
- If you are in Fifth Grade- Have things settled down after the excitement of the play this week? So many classmates have been out sick- is everyone back and feeling healthy? Tell me about the inventive four-square games happening on the playground at recess. How are you “disguising” your turkey?