Edison Elementary Residency Highlight

Monday Aug 8th, 2022

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Exploring Nature and Kindness Through Creative Storytelling
Residency at Edison Elementary with Kelly Armor

“Once there was a germ who thought, ‘I could be so much more!’  It lived in the dirt under an apple and thought the apple was so much more powerful than him. And BOOM, the germ turned into an apple tree.  The apple tree felt very strong and important, but soon realized that fruit flies were destroying all its apples. And BOOM the tree became a fruit fly…”

So begins the “Food Chain Tale,” an ecological story written by Ms. Garver’s third grade class at Edison Elementary School during Kelly Armor’s recent storytelling residency.  The tale moves up the food chain, from germ to tree to fruit fly, then from frog to fox to human, illustrating the connections between each being in the ecosystem.  “Kids love stories,” Armor says.  “They also love science and they love being outside. This project tied them all together.”

Armor is Erie Arts & Culture’s Folklorist in Residence and a member of the organization’s roster of Teaching Artists, creative professionals who work with teachers and community leaders to put on arts programming across a variety of sites.  Her residency at Edison was one of the outcomes of a new diversity, equity, and inclusion partnership with the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.  “To reach new people [and share] all the benefits state parks offer, this partnership has us working with students in schools in underserved communities,” says DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “If we increase their familiarity with our parks by having their art displayed for a time and through organized field days for them to explore and enjoy, we hope they will feel more welcome and connected to our parks and public lands.”

As part of the residency, Edison’s third graders took a field trip to Presque Isle State Park, where they saw wildlife, discovered fossils, and explored the beaches with Presque Isle environmental educators.  They also learned lots of folk tales from both Armor and Rochester-based Onondaga storyteller Perry Ground.  “Many folk tales explain the natural world in fanciful ways,” Armor explains, “but they also emphasize our connections to all living things and the importance of cooperation and kindness.”

After their visits to the park, each class took a concept from their ecology textbook and created their own story, using a folk tale framework to make big concepts understandable. One class explained how squirrels and oak trees depend on each other, another described how flowers use insects to spread their pollen by offering them tasty nectar, and the third created the aforementioned tale of the food chain, which culminates with the human reflecting that, “There is one thing more powerful than me, and it is the germ. BOOM, the human turned back into the germ.  And the germ thought, ‘I AM capable of so much more!’”

Just as these stories illustrate the interconnectedness of each element of the local ecosystem, this project was a product of interconnection and collaboration between all the agencies and organizations listed above.  Erie Arts & Culture even engaged MenajErie, a local video production studio, to create a short documentary about the project.  Ethan Hayden, EAC’s Program Officer of Arts and Learning stated, “This video celebrates the students’ work and teaches the greater community that creativity, community, and science can all work together.”

Erie Arts & Culture

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