2007-08 Recipients
Brimstone Award for Applied Storytelling

$5000 to USING STORYTELLING TO PROMOTE GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS IN THE ROYAL KINGDOM OF BHUTAN

 Project Director: Steve Evans

 

In his proposals, project director Steve Evans stated his goals as:

 

  • To conduct a national values assessment survey
  • To list and annotate all the country’s known published folktales, indicating the values they represent
  • To compare the above two, looking for gaps
  • To conduct a national storytelling conference and festival to discover new stories that might fill the gaps
  • To integrate a comprehensive storytelling program into the nation’s cultural, educational, and entertainment systems, reflecting the vision of GNH

 

$5000 to TELLING TRADITIONS: STORIES AND POETRY THAT BUILD BRIDGES ACROSS THE RIVER OF LOSS TO THE PLACES OF ACCEPTANCE

Washington State

Project Director: Merna Hecht

 

BRIDGES is a nationally known grief support program designed for families with children ages 4-18 who have experienced the death of a parent or a sibling. Storytelling had not been integrated formally into its practice, however. With the support of the Brimstone Award, as well as additional funds from the Mary Bridge Foundation, poet and storyteller Merna Ann Hecht set out to increase understanding among program participants and staff of “how stories nourish our imaginations and grant us permission to explore the spaciousness of our inner life, especially when we are burdened with pain, grief and loss.” She offered workshops and training to groups of BRIDGES facilitators and worked directly with small groups of children and teens in a number of settings, including a summer camp for grieving children. The children opened up to the stories and through them discovered a quiet place of comfort and reflection deep within themselves.

 

In developing storytelling as a meaningful and effective tool for working in a grief and loss setting, Hecht gained new understandings herself. “I did not take stories literally and look for those that were directly about trauma, grief, loss and death,” she said. “Stories in and of themselves prepare us for the inevitable losses in human life and have the power to reach the heart. I was not using stories to heal or repair the wounds from loss and grief as much as I was learning to trust how storytelling draws on themes of, and calls us to participate in, community.”

 

$5000 to SHARING THE SKIES: STORIES AND ACTIVITIES FOR MUSEUM AND NATURE CENTER EDUCATORS

San Francisco, CA

Project Director: Anna Hurst

 

The main goal of this project was the development and delivery of an online storytelling workshop for informal science educators, i.e., educators working at museums, nature centers, science centers, and parks. The educators who participated are now more confident storytellers who incorporate storytelling into their science programming.

 

Anna Hurst, astronomy educator at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), and Lynn Moroney, an independent professional storyteller, tested stories and complementary hands-on activities illustrating astronomical phenomena at preparatory workshops in several venues, where participants discussed the reasons to “tell science like a story”; compared the language of story and the language of science; and learned how to find, learn, and tell stories. The actual online workshop took place on September 29–October 3 and November 10–14, 2008. The 37 participating educators were members of the Astronomy from the Ground Up community, which includes close to 400 educators from museums, nature centers, parks, and science centers located in 47 U.S. states. During the workshop, participants read articles about storytelling, heard stories from Moroney, created and shared storyboards, practiced telling stories, and shared action plans for incorporating storytelling into their science programming.

 

$5000 to COMMUNITY VOICES AGAINST VIOLENCE AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Amherst, MA

Project Director: Rob Wilson

 

Since 1982, the Veterans Education Project (http://www.vetsed.org/) has been supporting school and community efforts to help high-risk teens in western Massachusetts. Through VEP’s innovative “storytelling approach to understanding violence,” military veterans receive training on how to construct compelling stories of their personal experience with violence and substance abuse; they then present and discuss their stories in classrooms and other venues. Both veterans and youth benefit from the program. For veterans, the opportunity to serve as role models and influence a younger generation can be a validating and healing experience. Teens, in turn, learn real-world lessons about the long-term consequences of violence and substance abuse that can inspire them to change.

 

The Brimstone Award funded fourteen storytellers to present violence and substance abuse prevention programs to high-risk teens over a period of six months. Teachers reported that students were engaged and affected by the speakers’ stories, which also acted as catalysts for class discussions and oral history projects. Participating teens noted that they gained perspective on the importance of making responsible choices. Additionally, the award helped VEP leverage funding from other sources. Director Rob Wilson comments, “Storytelling has more potential for…promoting positive social and cultural change than even I had imagined…. Through our affiliation with NSN and our work on this project [we] have learned to think of ourselves as a storytelling group first and foremost….”