Educational Theory

The Value of Storytelling

Aristotle wrote that “the aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance”. When considering the creative process it is easy to lose sight of this simple truth, and this can lead to a limited vision of the practical application of arts and creativity in a classroom environment.

When we think of bringing more creativity into schools we often first think of the creative subjects that we took at school: Art, Music and Drama. But creative pedagogics requires something more than just the addition of more classes- the creative process must be incorporated into every aspect of the school day, and this calls for a different approach to teaching than the one we all experienced at school.

Groups like PYE Global have developed great techniques and exercises that can easily be incorporated into a classroom environment (many of which I used in the outdoor classrooms of my recent project in South Africa), but only a few of their methods explicitly use storytelling as a tool, despite the focus on self-reflection, a primary function of storytelling and mythologising.

Within a myth, every character, animate or otherwise, becomes an aspect of the audience’s psyche. As our awareness of Self develops we find ourselves empathising with different parts of the myth, and the whole meaning only reveals itself over the course of our lives. This is because within myths form spontaneously shifts as the language spoken is one of metaphor. This allows the audience to grow into the myth, even if it is a myth of their own devising. 

This last point is key when bringing storytelling into education: a student learning how to mythologise can learn to recognise the story of his own educational journey and that of his or her classmates. In recognising this story, the education becomes more infused with meaning and is contextualised within the life and experience of the student.

In mythologising our living education, the potential for stepping outside our embodied cognition increases as the necessity of defining the world primarily through our individual senses lessens. Embodied experience becomes a reference point, rather that the rigid form of ‘reality’. The cognitive benefits of this are manifold, most obviously in a student’s imaginative faculties, lateral thinking and empathetic ability. 

“This is our challenge. How do we get more people to have a positive imagination. Give young people a context where they can translate a positive imagination into reality, and guess what? They usually don’t want to blow up the world. They usually want to be a part of it.” -T. Friedman

The ability to translate our responses to the world into meaningful stories is an invitation to participate in the world, to widen our ecology of being to encompass ever more of the facets of the expressions of existence. The basis of a deep ecology of education, and the practice of ecological and creative facilitation lies in the knowledge and understanding of the boundaries of our self. Far from being a solipsistic or anthropocentric modality, this practice is a conscious participation and interaction with everything that is seen as other to self.

 

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