Guest Blog By Alison Stead, Deputy Head Teacher, Bognor Regis Nursery School
Helicopter Stories are exciting. Acting them out is magical.
Stories are a window into the minds of our children and bring to life their stories on the stage through a shared exploration of characters, action and place. This way of working has strongly resonated and complimented the child centred ethos of our Nursery School. Consequently, after embedding the approach into our practice, we were keen to share the legacy of Vivian Gussin Paley’s work of Storytelling and Story Acting through becoming a Helicopter Stories Centre of Excellence for MakeBelieve Arts. After all, who wouldn’t want to shout about it from the rooftops?
“Trusting in the children is key. As adults it can be hard to resist the urge to ask questions and squeeze in as many learning intentions as possible.”
Helicopter Stories is transformational for children; they are at the centre of this approach that offers so much on so many levels in terms of learning, development and fun! It is equally engaging for the adults who facilitate the time and space for this to happen; shining a spotlight on what children naturally do in their play, a rarity in a target driven education system constantly bombarded with new directives. After two years of sharing our Helicopter Stories experience with others and passing on the tools for them to start or continue on their own Helicopter Stories journey, it’s time to reflect on this privileged position.
Practitioners come to our training day with an open mind, ready to embrace what we are sharing. Of course there are questions and discussions as the day progresses but there is an eagerness to see how this approach works and how it can be applied to different contexts. In the current climate of a fast and furious curriculum in education, Helicopter Stories gives permission for the adult to stop, to listen and put their trust in the children.
Trusting in the children is key. As adults it can be hard to resist the urge to ask questions and squeeze in as many learning intentions as possible. However, by trusting the children, giving them ownership and listening to the voice that Helicopter Stories gives them, so much more can be learnt about them.
In my role as trainer, I too must trust the children and they never fail to disappoint. It’s a big ask of them to help me show a group of strangers how they tell and act their stories. I never know which children will choose to join me when invited but at just three and four years old they rise to the occasion. I am in awe of them, imagining the possibilities when they are five, six, seven and beyond.
My colleague Cathryn Twine and her passion for using and promoting Helicopter Stories within our own school community inspires me. Her commitment and enthusiasm has allowed us to work closely together to promote this wonderful world of story, in our Nursery School and beyond. We are Helicopter Stories Champions together and our own teaching constantly reaffirms the value of this approach as an ongoing dialogue with the children. One of the joys for us has been how it embraces and celebrates the contribution of all children, whatever their starting point.
Being able to extend that dialogue to other professionals gives time for reflection and space to create a deeper understanding of the power of storytelling in the classroom.
It’s a real privilege to be a Helicopter Stories Champion!