Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Annual Storytelling Festival Has Claxton Students Talking

Now that the holidays have passed, we can catch our collective breath and look back at the 8th Annual Storytelling Festival, held at Claxton on December 11th.  And we have the perspective to appreciate all the ways in which this full day of storytelling activities has had a positive impact on our students.

At the Storytelling Festival, Claxton students take a break from regular instruction to watch, participate in, and put on an array of storytelling performances. This year's headliners were local author Tommy Hays and popular storyteller and actress Becky Stone.

Hays, best known as an award winning writer for adults, spoke about his new young adult novel, What I Came to Tell You, about a boy who deals with his mother's death by creating intricate weavings out of natural materials found in the bamboo forest behind his North Carolina home. Hays is also a member of the UNCA faculty and director of UNCA's Great Smokies Writing Program.

Stone, a Vassar-trained actress, performs African-American, Appalacian, and world tales at schools, libraries, and festivals, including Chautauqua, where she has portrayed Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Pauli Murray. She researches, develops, and performs historical programs for the Center for Diversity Education in Asheville, the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching, the Asheville Contemporary Dance Theater, and UNCA.

Students were also treated to performances by many other professional and amateur storytellers, including some familiar faces from the Claxton faculty—and its student body.  They watched in large, multi-grade assemblies and small group settings, with storytellers up on stage and down in the audience with them.

The performances emphasized grade level themes from the N.C. Essential Standards and Common Core Curriculum, so students gained a unique way to connect to the curriculum.  The diverse performers also introduced them to different cultures, such as African-American, Southern Applalacian, and Native American, as well as many others.

Now that the short, cold days of winter have settled in, it's warming to be reminded of the special learning opportunities our students can experience only at Claxton!