When I was a child, I always wished characters from my favorite books would come alive. Last week, thanks to collaboration between Gaye-Lynn Clyde, Distance Learning Coordinator from The Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) and Juila Magnasco, Education Director at First Stage, the stories came to life with a Virtual Storytelling Experience (VSE). The VSE featured children’s author and Milwaukee native, Lois Ehlert, highlighting the titles Mole’s Hill, Cuckoo, and Moon Rope. Children and teachers were invited to join the characters in an interactive and live performance of these stories.
Not only was this project a fun way to expose children to live theater, but it also compliments our Transformative Reading Instruction (TRI) model. The VSE served 10 TRI schools, 28 teachers and their students. 1,003 students and their teachers signed up for this experience. With this collaboration, still in its early stages, with positive feedback and continuous improvement we hope to continue expanding this great opportunity, providing as many children access to theater arts and living history as possible.
Take it away Gaye-Lynn and Julia!
L to R: Gaye-Lynn Clyde, Distance Learning Coordinator, Milwaukee Public Museum; Sheri Williams Pannell, Lead Teacher, First Stage; Julia Magnasco, Education Director; First Stage.
First Stage is a national leader in storytelling, specifically for young people and their families. Having the opportunity to learn from stories, interact and play with stories, and become fully immersed in stories helps students deepen personal connections to the content, strengthen language and comprehension skills, and build empathy. The Virtual Learning partnership with MPM and Milwaukee Succeeds has allowed First Stage to explore new ways to engage students in the power of story, and provide teachers and students the chance to actively participate in an arts integrated learning experience together. One of the teachers stated, "Students LOVED the workshop. They believed that the presenters were talking to them and watching them. It was awesome!!"
All that was necessary for classrooms to partake in this experience was a SMART board or a computer and projector. One by one, the stories were told, including several opportunities for all audience members to participate. In Mole’s Hill, students transformed into “teeny, tiny, little seeds” which were exquisitely cared for by the teachers who “sprinkled” them with soil, water, and just enough sunshine to become big beautiful flowers that made all of Mole’s friends happy. In Moon Rope, a crowd favorite, students got to stomp and sing along as they went on a fox hunt, looking for one particular fox that wanted the moon just for himself. While “swimming” through rivers and using their manners to pass by on a grumpy troll’s bridge, children were engulfed in the story. They were engaged physically through the actions, but also had opportunities to discuss solutions to problems they faced on their “journey.” Finally, Cuckooembraced the importance of beauty coming from the inside.
First Grade Classroom at Hopkins Lloyd Elementary School enjoying the Virtual Storytelling Experience.
In between the performances were moments for students to learn about real-world applications of the problems characters faced in the stories. Shown through pictures of the exhibits available to view at the Milwaukee Public Museum, students were given an opportunity to make concrete connections of communities coming together.
Another exciting aspect of the Virtual Storytelling Experience is that it supports the Milwaukee Succeeds TRI model by providing professional development and support to teachers in the art of engagement through creative interactivity and play while their students receive amazing experiential opportunities that increase vocabulary and comprehension through authentic stories. Because the Virtual Storytelling Experience connects directly to each classroom via video streaming it allows for many classes to participate simultaneously all at the same time. The teachers facilitate activities within their own classes. This provides opportunity for everyone to be engaged at the same time as well. And Milwaukee Succeeds experiential network group can bring rich content to many more teachers and students to help improve literacy in Milwaukee through the TRI model!
This storytelling experience, while still in its early stages, is chocked full of potential. It provides students and schools an opportunity to engage in valuable experiences that may not have been possible otherwise. Field trips to the museum or theater may be costly or difficult for schools, and this is a budget-friendly alternative that doesn’t skimp on the fun. A longstanding partnership between First Stage, Milwaukee Public Museums, and Milwaukee Succeeds will continue to work on the project. Through fine tuning and listening to feedback (like from one first grader who gave a “thumbs down” to the project merely because he “didn’t like the old grumpy troll”) will continue to enrich this experience for all future showings.
Best, Gaye-Lynn and Julia
Danae Davis | Executive Director Milwaukee Succeeds 101 W. Pleasant St., Suite 210, Milwaukee, WI 53212 Direct: 414.336.7057 www.milwaukeesucceeds.org