Friday, September 25, 2015

Storytelling And Education...Sherry Norfolk is on Deck

The 2015-2016 season has begun!  The schools are open and lots of little tykes and big tykes are back in the classrooms where knowledge will rain down upon them, and if they are lucky, not all of it will slide off and be washed away by the janitors at the end of the day.

I had a rousing week last week in Kentucky and Tennessee working with the Haunting in the Hills Ghost Story Festival.  We filmed a ghost story special for KET, and worked in schools the week before the haunting on Saturday Night!  Mary Hamilton was our sponsor, guide, guru and all around amazing hostess  for the event.  She was brilliant.  if she does this role again next year, then whoever she asks should jump at it.  It was a great amount of fun!

P.S., the next time you are invited to the Wright/Hamilton household for dinner, request that Charles make Meatloaf.  You won't be sorry.

I am not what you'd call a rustic type of girl.......

All week, the park rangers escorted us through the area and introduced us at the schools.  The kids were fun, and loved storytelling.

We stayed in cabins on Pickett State Park.  Beautiful.

One night, right before I went to sleep, I saw a cave cricket in my room, and no husband in sight to capture the little guy and escort him to safety.  I just put my house shoes up on the dresser, as well as my tennis shoes, my skeletoes, and every other bag, purse or container I owned.  I gave him the floor.

I did a short hike with Megan Hicks, and wondered the entire time why people do it for fun.  I did see the Twin Arches.  Megan thought I was going to pass out half the time we were hiking.  The scenery was pretty, though.

Had great sets with Dan Kedding, Megan Hicks, and Carrie Sue Ayvar.  (I was sitting here for a few minutes racking my brain to remember who the fourth teller might have been, since there were four tellers on the bill, only to realize that I was the fourth teller.  Sometimes....)

One Night, I could hear something banging against the ceiling and the curtains, but couldn't locate what it might be.  Every time I turned on the light, the thing would vanish.  Finally, turned on the light to see a giant moth ghost past the lamp.  Freaked me out.  I opened the door and turned on the hall light for twenty minutes, but my noisy guest would not leave.  Finally, I just turned out the light and slept as much as I could while hearing something bump against the ceiling, curtains and glass every twenty minutes or so.

Saturday night during the ghost stories, twenty minutes into a thirty minute story, a snake made an appearance.  The snake was uninvited, freaked out the people closest to the stage, and proceeded to climb the hay bales that were in front of the stage as decoration.  I tried to ignore it, but the thing was agitated, ended up climbing all the way up on stage with me, and hiding behind the speakers.  I was going to let it be, but the head ranger came up on the stage informed me quietly it was a copperhead, therefore poisonous, and as a barefoot storyteller, I really needed to get off the stage.

Upstaged by nature.  

The rangers were terrific, and saved the day while being both polite and forceful.  I have decided that if I am ever in trouble, I totally want the Park Rangers to be the people I call.  Do I live near a national park?  No.  Do I still want Park Rangers to respond to my emergency?  Yes.

From now on, perhaps I will do my camping at the Hilton as the good lord intended.

This weekend I will be playing the Heart of NC Storytelling Festival in Greensboro.  I know it will be a fun if wet event, since it will be raining for the next couple of days.  If you are in the area, come out and play.  It will be dry and fun.

Next week I have another guest blogger.  She's one of my favorites.

Sherry Norfolk

I spend a lot of time buried in reading and research about using storytelling in education...not as much as Sherry Norfolk.

Sherry is one of the wells I go to draw from when I have a question.  If I need some advice about storytelling in classrooms or in education in general, she is a great source.

The kind of odd thing about Sherry is I have no idea when I met her.  Somehow, I feel like I've always just known her, but that can't be right.  She sort of slid right into my life, I looked up and she was just always there.  Perhaps it is because I knew her as an educator and writer, long before I ever saw her tell stories.

Her work in education and storytelling has been a gift to me as a teaching artist.  I am always honored when she agrees to do a little writing for me on the side, and her insights make me feel smarter.

She knows how to get underneath storytelling and education better than almost anyone else I've ever met, and she can tell a wonderful story as well.

Next week she is going to be featured in this space talking about Universal Design for Learning.  Yeah, I hadn't heard much about this before I read her piece.  Very cool stuff.

If you don't know Sherry's work, here is a brief bio:

Sherry Norfolk is an award-winning, internationally-acclaimed storyteller, teaching artist, and author, performing and leading residencies and professional development workshops across the United States and SE Asia. She was a presenter at the 2014 Kennedy Center-VSA Intersections Conference, “Leveling the Playing Field: Storytelling in the Special Needs Classroom,” and for the 2015 Kennedy Center-VSA webinar, “Teach Them to Fly: How Storytelling Gives Primary-age Children with Special Needs Their Wings.”

Stop in next week!

Happy Teaching.


  1. Donna, Your story of the urban dweller encountering the wilderness reminds me of a time I was in the Everglades (a swamp! a really, really big swamp! with alligators and strangler vines!). I was so excited, because I was watching, through binoculars, a pair of bald eagles feeding their babies. (Oh, man, sooo cooool, never seen this before!...) Then a pair of older humans came by. Urban dwellers, I presume. The man said, in a New York accent, "Is this where the alligator is? We were told there was an alligator here." I said, "I don't know where it is, it could be anywhere--look around." The woman said, "Is this all there is? This...this...greenery?"
    One woman's nature heaven is another's dull "greenery."

    1. Sitting here chortling as I read your comment. I love nature, I just am not suited to being out in it for very long.

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