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The Evolution of Our Stories About Places


The Evolution of Our Stories About Places:

Local, Not Parochial
Historical, Not Unchanging

Spacial, Not Bounded....?

Photos of Us Evolving....

Secret Worlds: The Universe Within--Interactive Java Tutorial

"Communities should have clearly defined boundaries.

They shouldn't overrun the countryside."

(from Save our Land, Save Our Towns:
A Plan for Pennsylvania

By Thomas Hylton, via Diane...)

"Limitations are good...they let you know where you are."

"Like many...children, I grew up believing that my teachers existed only at school. I was always surprised to meet a teacher on the street....As a teacher myself, I am now on the other side of that surprise...It's a moment I can intellectualize as a species of alienation, a moment that has parallels in all the encounters that diminish human contact to mere functionality. But it is also a moment of opportunity, a glimpse of the life that exists outside the confines of a place, a time, and a role...a moment in which speculation and curiosity can come to life..."

"The practice of teaching fundamentally concerns the buildiing of relationships...nothing is harder for a teacher...refocusing attention, not on sklll sets and facts, but on hearts and bodies and minds....Teaching is a humbling profession...we learn never to assume, but always to reframe the question [from] 'What can I do here as teacher?' to ask, 'What is going on here in the minds of my students?'"

Editor's Introduction. Schools: Studies in Education.
A Journal for Inquiry into the Subjective
Experience of School Life
4, 1 (Spring 2007)

That's what we'll be doing today; going exploring into those minds (and our own...)

So: maybe you've been wondering why an English professor is
co-directing an Institute on "Science and a Sense of Place"?

  • My own awful science-schooling experiences: a useful test case for science-phobic-students!
  • My interest in getting beyond the boundaries of discipline-specific education ("the big picture")
  • My interest in story-telling as a way of thinking about education.

Science as Story Telling and Story Revising
Paul Grobstein, Journal of Research Practice, 2005, 1, 1, M 1)

Storytelling as Inquiry
(College Seminar with Anne Dalke and Paul Grobstein,
Bryn Mawr College, Fall 2001-Fall 2007)

Anne Dalke and Paul Grobstein (2007). "Story-Telling in (At Least) Three Dimensions: An Exploration of Teaching Reading, Writing, and Beyond." Journal of Teaching Writing 23(1): 91-114.
(earlier draft available on Serendip).

Not all stories work this way/are told to be revised.

Some are place-keeping:

  • The Frenches of Woodstock, Virginia An Account of Six Generations: Our Relatives, Our Enterprises, and Our Memories. Ed. Anne French Dalke, Christopher Edward French and Carolyn French Long. Fredericksburg, Virginia: Self Published, 1997.

Some are sense-making:

Watershed: A Poem for Anne and Jeff
July 11, 2007

My mother is movement
deep folds of bilowing dresses, dangling clanging earrings
like the smell of the sea, announce her arrival
Omnipresent, far-reaching, ever-expanding
emotions vibrate within her
waves of enthusiasm, compassion, grief, hope roll forth
she is restless
neither neath the changing moon which guildes her does she lay still
constantly, constantly,
shifting, sorming, soothing
my mother is the ocean

My father is the stream
contained by the sloped banks on either side
slipping away, skirting around the bend, sliding over settled stones
steadily, steadily
he erodes this bank, collecting sediment as he passes
humming to himself, making his way down the path
branches bend low in greeting
insects dart upon his surface, salamander duck in crevices
he keeps on, wishing them well
simply, subtley, humbly
my father is stillness

We, we are the estuary
union of salt and sweet, ocean and stream
cradled among the reed and rushes
nourished by these live waters.
here, restless waves are gentle
here, smooth ripples are stirred
this, the meeting place
where both fluids flow
rise up, waters, rejoice!

Making sense of who we are, by looking @ where we came from

Personal Stories: Where We're From

Literature's Stories: Revising the Ones We Tell

An Exercise in Change...pair up, make 5, then 10, then 10 more changes...
what was this experience like for you??

Science's Stories: Collecting New Observations...

All Y/Our Stories: How They Might Be Revised?
What Stories Are Your Students Telling About Themselves?
How might they be changed?
What are the Stories We are Telling About Education in Our Schools?
How might they be revised?


* Open the doors and windows
* Provide assistance to people who want to come in but lack preparation
* Let people know we want them in not despite but BECAUSE of their individual differences
* Teach science as it is, where people are
* Allow everyone to have a role in furnishing the house
* specific benefits of exchange between minority-rich and minority-poor institutions:
* need to develop course/support materials which appropriately/correctly
* acknowledge where students are when we encounter them
* move ALL students along in their personal process of discovering how to think for themselves


Mary Ellen McGinnity's picture

  Everyone responds, in one

  Everyone responds, in one way or another, to a story; it makes a connection between us and impacts our relationship.  The storyteller enjoys revealing something to the listener(s); the listener(s), in turn, sees the storyteller through a different lens than before.  A single story sparks a chain reaction that results in a  conversation, a new mindset, a similar/opposite story, etc.  When a story is shared, you can feel a charge in the air because people usually seek ways (subtle or non-subtle) to connect with each other.  This is a powerful tool that can be utilized by teachers to create the kind of atmosphere in which bonds form between students/teachers and student/student.  That's exactly what happened today during Anne's session on poetry and storytelling.   I was inspired by the project of telling your personal story and then revising it to be in the form of a fairy tale.  Ideas began to swirl around in my head even as I was wondering why I hadn't thought of that particular angle before!  Her suggestion to have students write stories about science concepts/lessons is wonderful; I plan to use that idea as I try to help my students make sense of their place as we explore our campus.  Rather than just focusing on the "what" that is observed, I'll encourage them to elaborate on and/or imagine the "how" and "why."  Those additional stories will hopefully inspire them to be more observant, curious, and engaged in learning about and appreciating our environment.     
RecycleJack Marine's picture

Science as Story Telling

What's going on in the minds of my students? What's their stories? Maybe I can make better connections with them this year, than I did last year (my first at this school.) I actually ride through West philly hoping to see students from my school on the street...Should I get them to like me or should I get them to like science? Wil and I had a conversation (maybe it was with others) where he said that what you do downstream may be made less important by what happens upstream. But as a science teacher with an environmental slant, I have to make them (my charges) believe that their small changes impact the whole world. Why else would environmental concerns tell us to modify our behaviors? We know George W. Bush doesn't care about the planet's health and niether do billions of others. But I will continue to try to get my students to change, as they can have an effect on the Earth- it all starts with their sense of science at their place where they live, play, study and grow.
Benjamin Zerante's picture

Morning Response

I really enjoyed all of the activities this morning, and they are all so useful in the classroom. I agree with Judith that these creative activities are amazing and engaging and would really grab our students' attention and interest. I think that they also promote good values in the classroom that we might try to create. It is essential that our students feel comfortable and safe before we can push them to make mistakes, challenge their mindsets, and be uncomfortable at times. The Making Changes activity is great to accomplish just that purpose.
Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Exploring Poetry In My Space

Wow! What an activity that gets you out of your comfort zone! I really enjoyed the "Change Game". I am going to use this as an opener to the first week of school. It will serve two purposes for me, first it will break the ice with my students and second it will help them to be better observers in life. Anne you always bring out the creaivity in me! I think educators need to be more creative and our students need to be more creative with the gifts, the talents, and the skills that they have. They need to learn how to create the "positive" in the situations they come across! Revising the story is what we need to teach our students to do.
Diane OFee-Powers's picture

Thurs AM

I am a big believer of integrating language arts & science, so I loved watching Ann & Will acting in the play & also loved writing a play with my colleagues!

I like to find more plays about scientist or science related events. I do have an Arbor Day paly that the kids really do enjoy.

Great Activities! once again, thanks for giving me ideas to use in my classroom.

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