Thursday, April 14, 2011

News from Iowa

What’s the story?: Storyteller enhances learning for Linn-Mar students

ROBINS — David Novak was telling a story most of the students in the Westfield Elementary School library Wednesday, April 13, 2011, had heard before: Jack and the Beanstalk.

It just usually doesn’t involve a long loop of yellow string.

Novak, a professional storyteller from Asheville, N.C., held his hands apart forming a web of yellow lines between them in the shape of a long beanstalk as he spoke of Jack and his trip into the clouds. He then looped the string around his ears and let it fall slack against his chest forming an outline of a long beard.

“Fee, fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman,” he bellowed as his audience of first-and second-grade students broke into laughter.

Novak is visiting all the elementary schools in the Linn-Mar school district this week as part of the school’s Stories Alive program, paid for by the Linn-Mar School Foundation and Hills Bank. He frequently travels around the country to tell stories in schools and his work as a storyteller and educator has garnered him national acclaim,

Jack and the Beanstalk is just one story where Novak uses strings as visual aids while he acts out the story, a performance he recently captured in his book “String Figure Jack.” He also uses the shoelaces in his sneakers to tell stories that will help kids remember how to tie their shoes.

Novak said his entry into the field came as a result of not being able to pick just one theatrical role for his career.

“I found that storytelling brought together all my different interests into one package. Now, I’m my own writer, director, performer and designer and I am the author of my works,” he said.

Equally important as the creative aspect for Novak is the opportunity to educate using the arts. Novak believes that the actual verbal telling of stories is an important part of any child’s upbringing.

“Stories have historically given growing children the ability to perceive pattern and shape in the world and events around them,” he said.

The school feels the same way as Linn-Mar’s Stories Alive program is now in its 20th year, according to foundation president Shelley Woods.

Whether they realized that they were learning patterns or not, the students received Novak’s act with enthusiasm. Jake Nickel, 7, said the Jack and the Beanstalk part was his favorite, and that he had only previously heard the story on a computer.

Hannah Graland, 7, preferred a story Novak told about a sinking ship where he folded a newspaper into a cutout of a life preserver.

“He did a really good job, it was very funny,” Graland said.

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