Storytelling Under the Stars 2016

storytelling-under-the-stars-2016Come join us for stories of the night skies UNDER the night skies (and yet in the comfort of the planetarium).  Enjoy the beauty of the night sky without the light pollution typical in downtown Chapel Hill, listen to folktales from around the world about how the various objects in the sky came to be.  SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13th from 4:30-5:30pm in the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

NC Department of Environmental Quality

p_ncgov-deqStory Squad met with administrators, educators, and scientists to discuss the power of storytelling to convey environmental messages. We told several “pourquoi” stories (French for “why”) about why things are as they are), and we explored a process for developing nature pourquoi stories quickly and easily using the following process:

  1. Select an object in nature (pine cone, feather, leaf, etc.)
  2. Look closely at the object to identify its physical qualities (texture, shape, color, size, etc.), then think about the larger object of which this is a part (feather to bird, acorn to oak tree, etc).
  3. Look for features of the object or larger entity that help you identify it or that are unusual.
  4. Ask, “why is it this way?” AND “how did it get this way?” or “how did it come to be?” AND “what was it like before?”
  5. Answer your question(s) with a plausible but not necessarily logical (or scientifically acceptable) answer.
  6. THEN…..
  7. Visualize a setting and several characters (your object need not be a character; it can be a result of story actions).
  8. Try to include some dialog, maybe a sound effect, or a character voice to spice up the narration.
  9. Use the following prompts to create your story:
    • “Once upon a time there was…” (stasis)
    • “One day…” (problem)
    • “Luckily…” (character resolves problem but changed)
    • “And that’s why…” (denouement/moral)

UNC Hospital School Collaboration

customLogoWe have begun a new collaboration to bring stories into the community, this time with the UNC Hospital School.  Stories are a way to share our lives, to escape into other worlds, to identify with characters who are going through similar experiences, or to learn from new experiences so that we can better understand and cope with life as it comes to us.  Stories heal!  Stories empower!  Stories connect us to each other!  We hope Story Squad will bring joy, laughter, and hope to the children at UNC Hospital School, just as we try to do with all of the children we meet.

Another Year of Adventure and Stories at Estes Hills Elementary

This year we tried something different in the first grades of Estes Hills Elementary.  Last year we told stories and mentioned to the children that the books could be found in the school or public library.  Circulation of those books didn’t change at all.  This year we brought in the book to share after we told the story.  We showed the cover and a few of the most important pictures from the book to draw a much tighter connection between the heard story and the book in which it could be found.  Circulation SKYROCKETED, in some cases as much as 1,800% from the prior year (we’re writing an article on this impact).  Talk about motivation to read!  Interestingly, librarians have known of – and exploited – this connection for over 100 years.  As librarian May Quigley claimed back in 1905, “The primary object of story-telling to children is to…cultivate a taste for good literature and direct them to those books which they would not otherwise read if left to themselves.”*

So, we only told stories this year that were in the school library collection, and our Scholastic Patterson Partnership grant will put another $3000 worth of easy reading folktale books into that collection for next year (see the video embedded in the March 1, 2016 post). All of these stories are appropriate for kindergarten and first-grade children.

  • Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock (Arfican)
  • Abiyoyo (African)
  • Crocodile and Hen (Africa: Bakongo)
  • It Could Always Be Worse (Jewish)
  • Stonecutter (Indonesian)
  • Anansi and Turtle (African)
  • Borreguita and the Coyote (Mexican)
  • Ox and the Frog (Greek: Aesop)
  • Badger and the Magic Fan (Japanese)
  • Origin of Shoes (Indian)
  • Anansi Goes Fishing (African)
  • The Mitten (Ukrainian)
  • Two of Everything (Chinese)
  • The Green Gourd (US: North Carolinian)
  • The Empty Pot (Chinese)
  • Rabbit and the Dried Persimmon (Korean)
  • The Name of the Tree (African)
  • Coyote’s Crying Song (Native American: Hopi)
  • Tikki Tikki Tembo (Japanese)
  • Legend of the Lady Slipper (Native American: Ojibwe)
  • Rooster and the Diamond Button (Hungarian)
  • Two Ways to Count to Ten (African: Liberian)
  • The Cat’s Purr (West Indian)
  • Anansi and the Talking Melon (African)
  • Coyote Steals the Blanket (Native American: Ute)
  • Anansi and the Box of Stories (African)
  • How Turtle’s Back Was Crackedl (Native American: Cherokee)
  • Rhinos for Lunch, Elephants for Dinner (African: Maasai)
  • How the First Rainbow Was Made (Native American: Shasta)
  • How Many Spots Does a Leopard Have (African)


*Quigley, May G. “Telling Stories to Children.” Public Libraries July 1905: 351-53.


Story Squad and Estes Hills Elementary School Win Prestigious Scholastic Grant

heroA grant submitted to the Scholastic Patterson Partnership in collaboration with Estes Hills Elementary School in Chapel Hill has been selected as one of 467 national winners in a pool of applications that exceeded 28,000!  

Our project will use the funds to:

  1. Develop the folklore collection at the school library with particular emphasis on books that are accessible to developing readers in kindergarten and first grades.
  2. Bring Story Squad storytellers into the kindergarten classrooms to tell the stories that have been added to the collection to motivate children to read the books.

Research shows that storytelling is a valuable method of building reading excitement and motivation, as children who may struggle to read the text may encounter the stories aurally first, building familiarity and easing the reading transition.  Storytelling also adds a layer of drama to the printed page, modeling the feeling of immersive reading.

We look forward to extending the relationship with Estes Hills (where we already share stories each week with first grade classes) into the kindergarten classrooms.

First International Education Week Celebration at SILS Features World Storytelling

Story Squad tellers Sarah Beth Nelson and Brian Sturm shared tales from the various countries where SILS has international exchange programs to highlight these cultural opportunities for students.  We told the stories:

  • How Pig and Bear went into Business Together (they buy each other’s food and find they’ve sold everything and have no money to show for it) from the Czech Republic
  • What the Old Man Does is Always Right (he trades down from a cow to a bag of rotten apples, but his wife is thrilled as she then had apples to trade with a neighbor) from Denmark
  • The Cat’s Tail (how the Singapore cat got its stumpy tail) from Singapore
  • The Origin of Fire (how an earthquake rattles flint stones into sparking the first fire) from Chile
  • Boudica’s Final Speech (about a queen of the British Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying Roman forces from England
  • The Pheasants and the Bell (about a woodcutter who saves the life of some birds, who in turn save his life) from Korea


Storytelling Under the Stars Draws Record Crowd

Program 2015Well, we opened up the 6th annual Storytelling Under the Stars event to the public for the first time this year (it used to be for members only), and the response was wonderful.  More than 85 people joined us for celestial stories.  They heard a Yoruba story about the Coming of Night, a Native American (Shoshone) tale of the origin of the Milky Way, as Grizzly Bear shook snow from his fur, a West Coast Salish tale about the origin of the constellation Auriga as women tried to protect their dinner from a hungry and lazy skunk, and a West African wisdom tale about a Wise Man and the Butterfly.

We hope to see you all at the 7th annual event next year in early November 2017.

6th Annual Storytelling Under the Stars

ImageStory Squad and the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center are teaming up once again to tell celestial stories under the glorious dome of the night sky inside the planetarium.  It’s a wonderful way to hear stories, surrounded by twinkling lights and the deep darkness that is the night sky without light pollution. Come listen as storytellers bring the night sky to life!  This storytelling event is open to the public.

When: Sunday, November 8th, 2015 at 5:00pm

Where: Morehead Planetarium on the UNC campus

Ghost stories

Well, what a marvelous experience that was!  We went out to help Cedarock Park in Burlington celebrate its 40th anniversary by telling scary stories around their campfire.  We were told to expect between 50 and 60 people, and we arrived to see more than 250 folks gathered to hear stories.  What a celebration that turned out to be.  As the sky darkened and the star began to glitter above the trees, we lit tiki torches to create a “stage” and shared stories that were modestly scary so the young folks could enjoy the experience.  We then took a break for apple cider and roasting marshmallows, and returned for two disturbing stories of “monster” children.  Everyone seemed to have fun and enjoy the scare…we hope parents had no children up late that night with nightmares.  Thanks to the Alamance County Public Library and the Alamance County Parks and Recreation Department for hosting Story Squad for this scary story evening.