Story Lab Blog

Visit here to see occasional posts, newsletters, and updates from our Story Lab team. 

Dear families and teachers,

Happy February! It's been a while since we've connected, but Story Lab students have been bursting with creativity this winter.

Our middle school students have joined the Sitka Native Education Project's after school Culture Class to learn about local indigenous storytelling. We have learned Tlingit words (xh'aan, "red, like fire"), sung canoe songs, and listened to stories about Sitka. This week, Chuck Miller told us a story he wrote himself about Raven traveling to the Yukon in search of food. Mr. Chuck enjoys writing his own legends to keep the storytelling tradition alive and modern. We came up with our own versions of new legends about local animals and places. Isabel invented a story about the Sheet'ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi, who long ago was alive and loved it when people danced inside of her. Rowan wrote about a wonderfully narrated story about a wolf who races his friend, Silver, off a cliff and nearly dies.

Dear families and teachers,

Story Lab has had a month filled with imaginative play and book-writing! From diving into writing a children's book with SEER school to searching for clues on a scavenger hunt with our high school session, we've had a wonderful time this early spring! 

Students continue to be as inventive as ever. The elementary school session wrote stories and acted them out for each other (without using words) to have us guess their plots. Tyler mimed a story football player who kept breaking his bones and eventually turned into a piece of paper and floated around.

Dear families and teachers,

Happy spring break! We want to update you on what Story Lab students have been doing this March.

Elementary school students went on a scavenger hunt in the Island Institute. They deciphered strange clues ("Santa has been shipwrecked for Christmas!") and found images in each of the locations. At the end, students used the images they found to string together a story. At first, they thought the activity was hard because the pictures were so unrelated to each other, but after thinking for a while they were all able to make stories out of the disparate images – way to go, team! Lena and Jasmine went above and beyond and turned their image-stories into fashionable belts.

Dear families and teachers,

Happy April! These past weeks, Story Lab students have been busy creating their own worlds!

Artist in residence Michelle Kuen Suet Fung, a visual artist based in Hong Kong, led workshops with our middle school program and with the SEER School. She has spent the past year inventing a futuristic dystopian world called "Polluta," a collection of floating artist colonies in China in 2084. China has converted its pollution into bricks to create these cities, which float at 10,000 feet in the air and are accessible by red-bean stalk. Each "Polluta" residency has apartments for the artists, an amusement park, a library through the National Library of China, and free WiFi filtered by the Ministry of Technology. Oh, and any necessary supplies are delivered by flying elephants.

April is National Poetry Month. To celebrate, Story Lab students have dived into poetry from places and eras all over!

At Blatchley, the entire 7th grade learned how to memorize and perform poetry. First, students chose a poem to write down and carry with them to learn and share with others, extending Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 21) to three weeks!

In class, we worked on memorization techniques, focusing on constructing "memory palaces," an ancient Greek and Roman method of memorizing text by using the spatial-visual brain. We made maps of familiar places, like our houses or neighborhoods, and "placed" lines of poetry in specific locations. Then we "walked" in our minds through those places and tried to memorize the lines visually.

Dear families and teachers,

Story Lab launched its first after school sessions for elementary, middle, and high school students with a nighttime exploration of the Tongass, haikus, and "Frankenwords."

Last week, our elementary school students learned about description. In one activity, Storytellers were asked to close their eyes and imagine themselves on a wilderness expedition. As they reached for their flashlights, our Storytellers instead encountered a series of mystery objects, and described them to the group using the four senses writers tend to overlook. We ended by reading the first chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory together to think about how Dahl uses description to paint a portrait of Charlie's family.

Dear families and teachers,

Story Lab transported our storytellers to new places in the past two weeks: to a life-sized board game and to Mount Olympus.

Last week, students walked into a room covered in pink, yellow, green, blue, and purple tiles, which formed a winding path.

“In order to advance,” boomed a voice, “you must roll the bright yellow, star-patterned die.”

Students rolled the die and landed on various colored tiles. Each color stood for a style of writing, from “one-sentence stories” to acrostic poems. Once they landed on a tile, they had to write in that tile’s assigned style of writing about a prompt drawn from a cup: for instance, a one-sentence story about a time-traveling cat.

For instance, the Light Warriors (Bo and Rowan from our middle school session), wrote some evocative lines in an ABAB CDCD poem about paper (a form which requires that lines rhyme in that order):

Paper lives in clouds as white as snow.

Dear families and teachers,

Whew! What a wild two weeks. From cutting out puppets to scribbling myths by the waterfront, Story Lab students experimented with telling stories about the animals and the natural landscape of Sitka.

Elementary school students got a special shadow puppetry workshop with Kimi Eisele, our Rasmuson Foundation artist-in-residence. Shadow puppetry is an ancient form of storytelling that involves cutting out figures and holding them between a light source and a screen. It has a long tradition in Southeast Asia, as well as South Asia, East Asia, and Western Europe.

Dear families and teachers,

For two weeks, Story Lab students – truly of all ages – dove into activities of purely playful invention.

Last week, elementary, middle, and high school sessions came up with written text, sounds, and movement to tell the stories of wordless picture books. Together we read Oops by Arthur Geisert to practice storytelling to a book without words. Students split into groups to invent stories for their own books. Tessa and Lena acted out their version of Barbara Lehman's The Red Book, which included setting up a stage with chairs and using my white sweater as a prop for snow! It worked so well that I took the wordless picture books to the kindergarten and first grade students at the Arts Fair at Baranof Elementary.