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Teaching by storytelling

A time-tested aspect of any successful education program is teaching by storytelling.

People have known for millennia that stories stick in the mind, even when the listener might brush off any principles embedded in those stories if they were presented as rules and admonitions. The love of stories may be programmed into our genes, going back to the first campfires, where people gathered to tell each other about their days, and their ancestors’ days.

In western culture, for example a classic teaching story is the Search for the Holy Grail: Parcival, a young untested man (a boy, really) weeps as he sees the Kingdom where he lives being destroyed by a terrible drought. The crops are dying. A soothsayer says that the drought can be lifted only if the King drinks from the Holy Grail–the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper. But that cup has been lost for centuries and no one can find it, no even the greatest knights of the land . Parcival is in despair because so many people are suffering from the drought and so he is determined to find the Grail where so many others have failed. After many adventures he does find the Grail and saves the Kingdom from starvation.

Through stories like this one—or the stories of Giraffe Heroes at the root of all the Giraffe teaching materials described in this section—the kids you work with will soak up the principles of living bravely, ethically, and compassionately, without your hitting them over the head with those concepts. Understanding falls out of the stories, all over their lives. You’ll find this a profoundly effective approach to character education, one that presents no need to debate “values” or “situational ethics” or any of the other bugaboos that so distress communities today.

Enjoy reading these thoughts relevant to helping kids lead healthy and productive lives? Then explore the rest of the programs the Giraffe Heroes Project offers for educators, youth leaders and parents.