Storytelling: The Original Social Media
The educational power of storytelling through performance can address crucial areas of learning. From the shaman of Mesopotamia 7,000 years ago using chanted stories to communicate survival strategies to their tribes, to the masked chorus of Greek tragedies in 6th century B.C. who translated the complexities of the gods to eager Athenians, to the soul stirring Intore dance of Rwanda where Ignoma drums bring century old celebrations to us today—Storytelling remains at the heart of who we are, how we communicate, and what moves us forward. Storytelling through performance helps us to process huge events into tangible entities--the indescribable becomes understood and the overwhelming becomes manageable. Storytelling is the universal processing vocabulary of the human race.
The skillset used to create original stories is identical to those necessary for conflict resolution, community building and the exploration of identity. While current education trends may provide knowledge of how systems operate, they rarely provide tangible tools for students to navigate the complexities of their lives—the AFP story-building curriculum teaches tangible skills and enhanced vocabulary that will impact the lives of students, their families and communities. In short, instead of focusing on what they know, our methods focus on what students can do with what they know. This creative and collaborative process engages students in specific action steps that directly transfer to the their lives as they build their stories.
Global Engagement Institute, our partners in Rwanda, reflect on our work.
Research, compromise, collaboration, discipline, creativity, compassion, innovation and critical thinking are the core skills students develop. We would never ask students to build a house without a hammer; we should never ask students to build their stories without the tools of drama.
This curriculum is of particular relevance in our conflict-heavy global community and applicable to every subject and discipline. Whether a student is adapting to the emotional complexities of college life or navigating the daunting mountain of employment, they are in desperate need of an expanded tool set to process their conflicted worlds in healthy, productive ways. The impact of conflict and struggle is not relegated to particular social classes, geographic locations or specific school subjects—the affluent and poor, the western and non-western, the sciences and humanities are all slowed by our increasingly conflicted world. This forced consumption is entering the minds of our students without a processing vocabulary thus creating huge obstacles in their ability to learn, grow and contribute. As future generations are provided with tools and vocabulary for storytelling they are fueled to discover, define and share their identities. Multiple defined identities create strong families, communities and countries.
As new generations transition from knowledge-based communities to self-reflective, action-based communities the conviction that every human being, no matter how submerged in conflict, is capable of looking critically at their world in a dialogical encounter with others, and that provided with the proper tools for such encounter they can gradually perceive their personal and social reality and deal critically with it. When oppressed individuals participate in this sort of educational experience they come to a new awareness of self, a new sense of dignity; they are stirred by new hope.