August 8, 2019 at 11:28 am #45184ztpoterackParticipant
Hello! I recently watched a webinar and some of the ideas from it have been bouncing around in my head. The webinar is here, but I’d appreciate anyone’s thoughts on this subject, whether or not you’ve watched it. (I think this discussion loosely fits in this forum, but I can move it if need be).
The webinar is about disruptive storytelling, which is essentially a marketing term/technique about telling a story to make a change (get people to trust your company, buy your product, etc.). This article summarizes the idea from the marketing perspective, but we could apply it to our missions as educators.
In EE, we might tell a story that follows a “problem –> solution” format (“Orangutans are endangered due to habitat loss, and we can help them by purchasing RSPO certified palm oil.”) But because most people are so inundated with problems every day, they could tune out before hearing the solution. Or, they might see themselves positioned as the villain in the story (“I never knew about palm oil and I buy all these products, I’m a bad person and I’m hurting the orangutans”) which can drive them away also. However, there are other ways we can frame the story. The CEO of Get Storied recommends an “opportunity –> obstacle” format, though I’m still processing what this would look like for conservation concerns.
Basically, I just want to know what kind of stories your organization tells, and/or what stories you tell as an educator. How do you frame your stories? Who do you seem to reach with your stories, and who might you be missing or even alienating? What stories would you like to tell?
I’m wondering if it’s useful to think about the “stories” embedded in a particular program or activity, or if this applies more to bigger picture goals and community engagement.
Feel free to answer whichever questions you would like, or share any other ideas you have about this!
August 12, 2019 at 8:35 am #45201sskebbaParticipant
What an interesting concept. I use stories very frequently in all facets of my role, including formal lessons and informal guest interactions. This article really put how often I utilize them into perspective!
The biggest problem I face when engaging adult guests in stories is guilt or fear, probably as a result of framing “problem –> solution.” Often times the audience who doesn’t automatically take responsibility for negative environmental effects will begin to fear the large-scale issues with no easy solution. It may be useful to make the issue at hand as tangible and fixable as possible, or put a positive spin on it. “Orangutans are facing challenges as a result of palm oil cultivation, but the Sustainable Palm Oil app has helped X number of people make sustainable choices! Just like them, you can help orangutans everyday!”
For middle-age-group audiences, I find stories are most effective when they are the hero and by offering simple ways they can feel empowered. “May animals get sick by eating garbage that gets left in their habitats. Have you guys ever picked up a piece of trash that was just laying around? (Yes… woohoo! yay! you are amazing!!!). You can help save a native animal if you are aware of your surroundings and remove things that aren’t supposed to be there!”
With a younger audience (up to maybe 6 or 7), I rarely introduce stories with conflict. Introducing them to the concept (orangutans, clean ecosystems, etc) and building excitement with a positive message will allow them to gain a love and respect for the concept. This will encourage them to conserve it as they grown and learn more. I would be interested in hearing if anyone has an effective way to engage young audiences with this type of storytelling.
I am curious how others adjust their stories based on age-group!
August 23, 2019 at 11:19 am #45356ztpoterackParticipant
Thanks for the response! I hadn’t thought yet about how we should adjust stories for different audiences. I’d been assuming that a similar framework would work for many/most audiences, but the content might need to be adjusted. But you have a good point. This webinar talked about getting away from the hero/villain tropes, but I think that type of story is still very powerful for younger age groups.
With younger groups, my goal has usually been promoting empathy for nature, and stories are incredible tools for that. All stories have some sort of conflict, but the conflict can be something like finding food or a new home in a changing environment. Or it can be a story about ecosystem services. For instance, “People put garbage in the trash, and there are people who have jobs to take that trash away so our homes aren’t dirty and we don’t get sick. In the wild, there are animals like vultures whose ‘job’ it is to clean up ‘trash’ like leftover food from other animals. Without them, the whole world would be really dirty and we could get really sick!”
July 13, 2020 at 10:59 am #51388Kathy BalmanParticipant
Thanks for sharing the webinar and article I will definitely check it out. Storytelling is something I want to incorporate more into my programming so I have actually been taking some webinars and reading a lot using storytelling lately. I offer programs for Preschool- 12th grade and generally have no issues finding story resources for younger age children. I am good at making up my own stories so I often use resources that are already available. I think here in AZ we are really lucky to have some amazing authors who have written books specifically about our desert ecosystem. Most of them are well written and factual and not only teach a valuable environmental lesson but also a personal life lesson as well. I would love to hear more thoughts on storytelling for older age children though. I have used a few stories with older children mostly non-fiction texts like journal entries (from explorers), Native American stories, and poetry texts. I have also had older students do compare and contrast fiction texts, for example when learning about wolves comparing different stories about little red riding hood. In my survival skills class I start with a short story I found about a boy who goes off to explore the area around his new home, which happens to be in the desert and gets lost. After I read the story I ask the kids what Jason did wrong. It is a great way to access what survival skills the children are already aware of and what preparations should be made before venturing out into the desert. I’ve used it with all ages and the kids really seem to enjoy it.
July 13, 2020 at 11:00 am #51389Kathy BalmanParticipant
I wanted to also add that I totally agree with the fact that we need to avoid allowing our audience to feel like they are the villain in the story. I think the stories we are telling need to make the subject we are teaching about or the thing we are trying to change obtainable and relevant as well to our audience. I am a strong supporter of starting off younger children with more local matters and helping them develop a strong sense of place before we throw larger world problems at them or expect them to change things that they have little control over currently.
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