Contacting diverse area religious schools and education programs, and enlisting a commitment to our project from them.
In 2006, 28 teachers and 13 students from Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons Catholic School, An Nur Muslim School, The Heritage Class of the Hindu Temple Society of the Capital District and from synagogues in the Community Coalition for Jewish Education took part.
Our staff: Marni Gillard (storycoach), Gert Johnson (director), Paula Weiss (assistant director), Mary Murphy (storycoach)
Interfaith teacher workshops involving teachers from the above mentioned schools and programs. Workshop content included information on their participation in the project and how the art of storytelling could enrich their classrooms, as well as a sharing of the teachers’ gifts for story, and the unique ways that they already use story in their teaching.
Teacher nominations of responsible and capable students. For the first year we chose students from grades 6-9 who expressed a high degree of interest in interfaith storytelling.
Submission of letters from students in which they introduced themselves, explained their interest in the project and stated their commitment to its goals and to the time and effort necessary for acquiring the skills of storytelling.
Storycoaching of students by two professional storytellers, who guided the young people toward the goal of a community telling. The stories to be presented were chosen and retold, or crafted by the youth themselves. The participants were encouraged to delve into the wisdom of their own faith traditions to find stories that spoke to them which they wished to share. They were also asked to consider using other arts they were skilled in to enhance their story performances.
Other opportunities to learn about story.
The students were invited to attend monthly interfaith story circles, and had the opportunity to visit diverse religious educations programs to perform together. They also were visited by adult storytellers from the Hindu, Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths who shared on the role of story in their traditions. Parents were invited to attend these sessions which were often followed by thoughtful questions and lively discussion.
A festive youth interfaith storytelling event involving students, coaches, teachers, families and friends, was held on April 30, 2006.
It was publicized in local story circles, churches, mosques, temples and synagogues. Invitations were issued to the broader community by way of mail, local print, radio, and TV media. The event, which was attended by approximately 125 people, included the young people’s story performance, finger foods and an interfaith mixer activity, a Hindu story dance performance and a pot-luck supper. Storytellers at each table facilitated informal story sharing during supper through the use of story prompts.
We have already seen some of the differences that this project has made:
Teachers, parents and students from the Hindu, Muslim and Jewish traditions were invited to address classes at the Catholic school. The seeds for teacher / student exchanges were sown.
Two of our students (Jewish and Muslim) together attended a storytelling workshop weekend this past summer, financed in part by scholarships from the project.
We have been given the opportunity to present our program at the National Storytelling Network’s conference in St. Louis, Missouri in the summer of 2007. We are excited to be reaching a national audience!
Many of the students, teachers and families have stayed in touch with us and with each other, attending community storytelling programs and interfaith circles (such as the
October 4th meeting described in this article.) It is a joy to have them with us. They are bringing new life and vibrancy to our mission. They are modeling for us the way to live together in peace.
A Children at the Well “kit”. It has always been our intent and our prayer that our Children at the Well project will become the first of many; here in this area and elsewhere. From its inception, we have been developing a guide to help other storytellers and interfaith organizations in the U.S. and abroad who want to develop their own Children at the Well project.
Click here to view this kit .