The North Street School/Hobart and William Smith Storytelling Festival had its inaugural performance this semester, adding another unique component to Colleges’ efforts to work hand-in-hand with the community in the Geneva Partnership. The festival allowed 45 local third, fourth and fifth graders to learn how to create and perform stories with the help of HWS storytelling mentors.
The collaborative project was facilitated by Charlie Temple, professor of education, and Jill Antonucci, the North Street School librarian. The students in Temple’s education course, titled “Storytelling,” visited North Street School once each week for eight weeks.
Temple explained that, “In a course called ‘Storytelling’ that is focused on how to teach storytelling to young students, it’s natural to go out into the community and try to do it.”
He adds that, “Storytelling is important to be able to teach but it’s also important for students in my class to be able to do it themselves. Having good oral communication – in word and gesture – is tremendously important for any potential teacher.”
With the help of Antonucci and the pedagogical lessons learned in class with Temple, students helped area youth choose stories, which they made into storyboards. Those storyboards, in turn, became the framework for the gestures and expressions of the students in their performances.
“So often, the best way to learn something is to teach it,” Temple said. “That definitely applies to storytelling techniques and teaching younger children how to tell stories.”
Antonucci said that, “Storytelling is one of the most important life skills a child can learn. It not only improves communication and listening skills, I have seen how it instills confidence in a child as well as increases his/her self-esteem.”
She added that the activity “…can involve all students regardless of ability level. I continue to be surprised by what children actually make the best storytellers.”
The festival had its first performance on the Hobart and William Smith campus, presenting to the more than 100 parents and family members of the area youth. Many of the students gave an encore performance at their school for their teachers and classmates.
So what was the inspiration behind this whimsical story? Simple: a visit this year from Beauty and the Beast as well as a collaboration between Antonucci and Temple during the previous academic year. Last year, the two teamed up with a small group of students on a storytelling unit. Nine of those students participated in the Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES Storytelling Festival last year, which was sponsored by the School Library System.
This year, instead of the Disney cartoons themselves, Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss, an Ithaca-based storytelling duo, performed at North Street School one morning then visited Temple’s class later in the day. While on campus, the team shared their experiences as performers, gave tips on how to teach young people the art of storytelling and provided students with the skills needed to end this year’s Storytelling Festival with a fairy tale ending.
Temple explained, “Mitch and Martha loved the concept of our Storytelling Festival and were impressed by the collaboration between the Colleges and North Street School.”
He added that, “This is just one more way that Hobart and William Smith is reaching out to the Geneva community, and the Geneva community is happy to collaborate.”
A member of the HWS faculty since 1982, Temple holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina and his master’s and doctorate from the University of Virginia. In 2005, he received a Fulbright Scholar Award that helped fund his sabbatical in Romania, where he helped two universities in Cluj — the nation’s third-largest city — improve teaching and change curriculum.
In addition to his teaching duties at Hobart and William Smith, Temple co-founded the Reading and Writing for Critical Thinking Project in 1997. Promoting concepts and methods for active learning, RWCT has helped more than 2 million students in 32 countries become more active and engaged classroom learners. As director of RWCT, Temple travels around the globe helping teachers learn the skills necessary to teach their students to be critical thinkers.
Antonucci earned a B.S. in Education from Bucknell University and a Master’s of Education from Penn State University. She completed her coursework for school library certification in 1991 at Syracuse University and began as the librarian at North Street School in 1991. She has served as the school’s librarian to present.