The following post was co-created by student teachers from the University Of British Columbia completing their community field experience in the outdoor classroom & school garden. Thank you to Simryn Mann, Sarah Reid and Amy Baatz for their outstanding contributions to student learning and for sharing their experiences of garden literacy with story stones in this blog post!
Story Stones In The Garden
Through imaginative play with loose parts, it is evident that children in the school garden are innovative storytellers. Story stones offer another opportunity to connect play experiences with oral and written storytelling, which allows for multiple entry points for joyful and engaged story creation. This joyful learning also extends beyond the fence of the school garden to any natural space where children play with story creation. Particularly for children who are overwhelmed by writing tasks, images painted or drawn onto stones can be exciting and inspiring sources for stories, and it is incredible to see hundreds of stories generated based on one story stone.
Because numerous classes learn in the garden, we decided to make a class set of story stones to be kept in the garden for continued use in the future. Likewise, story stones can be a fun activity for students to keep in the classroom to make stories with other loose parts from the outdoors, such as leaves, shells, and pinecones, or to use during story creation or story workshop.
Garden Story Stones
We began by collecting rocks from the beach and from our families’ gardens. We looked for stones that were approximately the size of a child’s palm, and that had at least one flat side, which makes drawing or painting easier and the image of higher quality. Generally, lighter coloured rocks are best because paint colours show more vibrantly as compared to darker coloured stones. The beach has an abundance of these rocks because the water weathers the stones producing oval, smooth stones—perfect for story stones! Collecting story stones can also be an activity done with students by going on a nature walk. The focus of the images on our story stones were aspects connected this particular school garden, such as insects, plants, and animals found in the garden.
Once the stones have been collected, consider whether you want the images on the stones to follow a theme, to draw on class experiences, familiar stories to be re-told, or to be a collection of random images. We chose the school garden to be our theme, as this is where the students share many experiences throughout the year.
We drew different components of the garden that the children have connections to, such as shovels, bees, and flowers. We recommend first sketching the chosen image on the stone with pencil before adding paint or using sharpies to outline. Try to plan for the picture to take up most of one of the flat surfaces. Then, fineline with a sharpie or add acrylic paint directly onto the stone.
We let the paint dry completely before painting a layer of Mod Podge over top of the flat side of the stone with the picture. When first painted, the Mod Podge appears as a white glue, but it dries clear and acts as a seal to prevent the acrylic paint from chipping. It is important that the acrylic paint has enough time to dry before the Mod Podge is added to avoid the risk of smudging.
Once the Mod Podge finishes drying, you have story stones that are ready for use.
Playful Literacy With Story Stones
We used the stones in multiple ways during the week depending on the grade level. The Kindergarten students played with the stones, using each stone as a character in the stories that they imagined and shared orally. The younger primary students chose a story stone, and drew a story based on the picture on that stone. They then narrated their picture orally. The upper primary and intermediate students had the opportunity to make their own story stones using sharpies and stones that we provided. They were asked to describe how the picture they drew on their stone connected to the school garden. Later in the week, they used our class set of story stones to write short stories in their garden journals. We noticed how the children who are typically disengaged during writing activities did not feel the pressure of writing when they had a stone, and believe story stones can hold a lot of potential for diverse and inclusive story creation in and out of the classroom.
Story Stone Resources
Show Me a Story by Emily K. Neuburger
If You Find A Rock by Peggy Christian
More Literacy Outdoors Ideas
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