The Herald Bulletin

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Community

April 1, 2013

Telling stories with few words

Students learn digital storytelling in after-school program

ANDERSON, Ind. — Many keep photos as mementos of good times past. Students in Storytellers of Anderson use them to tell stories of their past, present and hopes for the future.

The program, in its first year, is the result of a partnership between the Park Place Community Center and Fireside International, a nonprofit media company. The children have been capturing their lives in photos since February, using digital cameras provided to them free of charge.

“They have a valuable story to tell,” said Kristin Stayer, director of the community center. “We want them to be creative with how they see the world and convey that to other people.”

The course is being offered to kids in grades kindergarten through sixth from the community center’s After School Fun program.

Amrutha Pulikottil, operations manager of Fireside, said they want the students to leave with better communication skills crucial to doing well not only in the classroom and future workplace, but life.

But, she added, they also want to promote self-discovery and self-confidence in the process.

“We tell the kids to be their own main character instead of being someone else’s side character,” she said.

While the kids tell their stories digitally, they sometimes write little stories to go with their photos.

Faith Bond, 9, said they “take a lot” of pictures of things that are important to them, like family members.

She added she’s made new friends and learned in the process.

“You can do anything with your life and with your story,” Bond said, noting all have stories to tell.

While the center offers tutoring and other classes like gardening, it’s the first time it’s offered anything like Storytellers, Stayer said.

Photographers and writers come in as speakers from time to time. Local photographer Larry Stuart, for example, came in and taught them how to use the cameras and went over photography basics, Pulikottil said.

As part of the learning process, the students explain their photos, peer review each other’s work and receive tips from the adults on what they can do to improve.

If it weren’t for Storytellers and After School Fun, Destiny Cox, 11, said she’d likely just be at home, sitting around watching television.

“I think it’s fun because I’ve really never gotten to do something like this ever,” she said.

Knoah Marling, 10, said his favorite thing to take pictures of is his pets, but his favorite assignment was one involving snapping photos of funny people. He took some of his cousin.

For their first project, the students took photos with their favorite and least favorite objects. Pulikottil said it was based off the New York blog “Weight of Objects.”

The kids had to talk and write about why the objects are important to them.

Marling said writing and photography are both great methods of storytelling.

“It’s really fun to do stuff I’ve never done before,” he added.

Along with really delving into photography, many of the kids will also be blogging for the first time.

At the end of the course in May, the kids will put their pictures, along with any video they take, together to build a blog that can be viewed by the public at www.storytellersofanderson.tumblr.com.

Find Dani Palmer on Facebook and @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.

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