Storytelling was the theme of today’s FlexFriday workshop. Paula Davidoff, an educator, storyteller, musician, and more, came to discuss mythology, fairy tales, and folktales. She opened the session by talking about mythology and religion and how ancient Greece and Rome likely converted localized religions into others. She talked about how Disney princesses labelled as heroines, are often not really strong in their own right. And then she told us a story about High John the Conqueror in African folklore who made a deal with the devil and the devil’s daughter. The strong male protagonist was actually saved by the devil’s daughter and her defiance of her father, not a typical plot line in most fairy tales. Paula’s animated storytelling brought the students into her tales.
Next Paula relayed Grimms’ Fairy Tale of “The Goose-Girl,” a “grim” story about a princess, a false princess, and the talking horse Falada. We learned about the traditional roles of queens and kings in stories and how the elements such as wind and water can take on important characters’ roles. In this tale, the true princess was forced to take the role of her servant and the resulting false princess tricked a kingdom into thinking she was the rightful betrothed. We learned about the symbolic representation of hair in stories, and how there is usually a token or a charm that is meant as protection, but how that can be lost.
After the students listened to this “happily ever after” tale, we workshopped it. We talked about how the princess and the false princess/maidservant contrasted each other, but how they were ultimately parts of the same psyche. The students physically acted out specific characters they chose. Some students played the headless horse Falada, while others represented the wind or water. Students had to become these characters and then be interviewed as them. The other students asked questions of each character and we learned about their backstories, inner workings, and motives. We are off next week for spring recess, and when we return, we’ll be taking a trip to Rutgers University’s Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick. Learn more about how FlexSchool incorporates experiential learning with traditional academics, and how our small school setting engages a variety of divergent thinkers through nontraditional means, such as storytelling.
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