On Monday of this week and Thursday of last week, I was at Ottawa (KS) High School working with high school students and elders from the community. This was the fourth or fifth time I've done this intergenerational project.
We have a few goals:
- Build bridges between the generations through storytelling
- Teach basic storytelling skills
- Have fun
In this program, there are always some elders who have done this before. They're a great group, some of whom have been friends for ages. Ottawa is a small town, so everybody seems to know everybody else. We make sure that the elders are sitting with the kids. They chat a bit before we begin.
I usually start with a short story. I ask what the audience noticed about how I told the story. Then I ease the participants into telling some of their personal stories to each other. Donald Davis' book Telling your own stories is invaluable here.
We talk about the use of the senses to create a strong story, about how to portray emotion in a story, about how stories are structured. We play games that underline these ideas, we take apart a story, we tell and retell stories.
I especially love hearing the elders connect with the kids. John talked about being a gunner in WWII--he began by saying, "You know that park across from the tire store, the one with a cannon in it? Well, I've shot those..." At the end of the second session, I heard a student talking with one of the visitors. She was saying, "Do you know my grandparents? They live near where you do."
On Friday, the kids have an assignment due: they have to write their reflections of the workshops. The teacher will send these to the Area Agency on Aging, who sponsors the workshops. These will be used to justify having the program again. One of the visitors said, "I hope you write good reviews. I look forward to this every year." So do I.