Story Explorers: Freedom of Expression

The in-class sessions of Story Explorers finished up this past week. Teaching artist Hannah Dworkin has spent the last twelve weeks helping the kids delve into their imaginations and tell stories, which will then serve as the springboard for a new musical I will write for Bay Area Children's Theatre. I was fortunate to be able to join her for four of these classroom visits - the first two in September and the final two in December. After my eight-week absence, I was certain the kids had forgotten who I was and that I would have to re-introduce myself. Instead, I was greeted with hugs and a few "Where were you? We missed you!"

During the last two visits, Hannah had the children use visual arts to inspire stories. The kids were invited to use crayons, watercolors, clay, and even puppets, and to let their imaginations run wild. When their art projects were complete, we asked them questions about what they had made, encouraging them to create stories from their work. Here are just a couple of examples:

  "Light Knight" clay sculpture by Angel

"Light Knight" clay sculpture by Angel

  "Black Knight" clay sculpture by Angel

"Black Knight" clay sculpture by Angel

  Stunning watercolor and crayon painting by Noorhan.

Stunning watercolor and crayon painting by Noorhan.

  Teaching Artist Hannah Dworkin and the Story Explorers act out a scene with bee puppets.

Teaching Artist Hannah Dworkin and the Story Explorers act out a scene with bee puppets.

Even if there was no tangible story attached to their artwork, I found myself quite moved and inspired by the freedom of their creativity. I am now brainstorming ways to incorporate this free expression into the Story Explorers musical. This will probably mean letting go of a strictly linear narrative, and instead embracing whimsy, color and story in new and creative ways. I have no idea yet what that means, but just like the young Story Explorers did in their classroom each week, I'm ready to cut my imagination loose and see what happens!