Sunday, December 2, 2012

Why are stories important? (Part 2)

It's been an exciting six weeks as our Grade 5/6 students, their teacher, and I continue our collaborative inquiry into the importance of stories.  Our essential question: "Why are stories important?" continues to lead the way. Along our journey to date, we have learned to better understand why stories are important and recognize the many ways in which stories are told.  We have been using the story of Ruby Bridges as a catalyst for our learning and conversations. If you missed Part 1 of this inquiry, you can catch up here.

Since my last post, we have contined our inquiry, extending beyond the 'why' and 'how' questions from Part 1.  Our major question this time centered on historical significance, or "How do we decide what and whose stories to tell?"  Unknown to us at first, this is the essential question outlined at and luckily for us, this question aligned perfectly to the next part of our inquiry and provided us some excellent points of converation.

Questions that helped to frame our thinking and discussions included: 
  • What makes a story worthy of being shared?
  • Why do we hear about Ruby Bridge's story and not other students who attended the school? For that matter, why is Ruby's story more important than the story of the first white student, Pam, who we learned from this video, walked through the same angry mob with her father (both unprotected) the very next day?  Or why not the story of Little Rock Nine in 1957?
  • Who decides what story is told and how do they decide? 
We began our inquiry in Part 2 with a statue walk of our city.  As we walked our beautiful riverbank and downtown, we noticed many statues.  We asked: What stories are behind these statues?  What makes this story worthy of being told through a statue in our city?   Who decided this story is worth preserving this way? 

It was a wonderful way to get our students thinking and wondering (and we worked in a bit of valuable fitness at the same time)!

When we returned to school from our walk, we continued the conversations we had started along the way.  Sometimes the stories and choices seemed rather obvious after reading accompanying plaques, our prior knowledge, and our follow-up conversations (such as the statues of Gabriel Dumont, or Chief Whitecap/John Lake).  Othertimes, the choices of statues left us uncertain--a statue of Ghandi in Saskatoon?!  However, upon returning, students completed mini-inquiries into the statues we saw and soon better understood the stories behind the statues and the rationale for their existance. 

We then asked our students to decide if Ruby Bridges would be a worthy statue in front of our school.  Students wrote to defend their position, no matter whether they supported or argued the point (see student writing (unedited)).

In the next and final part of our inquiry before creating our culminating project, we will examine the role of historical perspective and try to understand whose version of the story is being told and better understand the importance of the story at that particular moment of history.

Stay tuned!

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