Let’s Take A Story Journey

“We’re doing a Story Journey tomorrow to go along with our church’s yard, garden and bake sale. We’re featuring Laura Alary’s book, What Grew in Larry’s Garden. We’re so excited.”

My good friend, Laura Duggin, minister at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newmarket, Ontario dropped this into a conversation the other day. We weren’t talking about Story Journeys or garden sales at the time, so when Laura burst forth with this comment I needed to know more.

“Tell me all about it”

Her next email started with, “Well, it’s not really my idea. I got it from Dana, an elder at our church and a teacher-librarian. She’s done a few at her school. She got the idea from another church in Guelph who did it last winter. And they got it from the blog Building Faith from Virginia Theological Seminary, although there may have been a few other churches in between.”

If an idea is passed along that many times, it’s gotta be a great one. I really did need to hear a lot more.

Laura began to tell me everything I needed to know.

A Story Journey is where you take a really great picture book, cut it apart, laminate the individual pages, then tack the pages onto garden stakes and place the stakes along a pathway for people to follow and read the story as they journey through a garden, a yard or even inside a building. “At St. Andrew’s we’re using What Grew in Larry’s Garden to go along with our plant sale. As people journey through the front yard of our church they will read this marvellous story about Larry’s gardening gifts. Our hope is that everyone will delight in this story and be challenged to share their garden’s gifts with others. At the end of our Story Journey everyone will receive two tomato seedlings to take home and do likewise.”

Laura then moved on to tell me about how her church got the idea from Dana Burton, a teacher-librarian who has been doing Story Journeys at her school throughout the seasons of the year. I spoke with Dana and she was more than happy to share with me what they had done with Story Journeys at her school. She began the project with goal of sharing great seasonal nature stories with their students that would dovetail well with the their outdoor education programme. Their first Story Journey was this past fall in conjunction with Orange Shirt Day, Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Their first book was Mii meander ezhi-gkendmaanh – This Is How I Know by Brittany Luby, a wonderful book about an Anishinaabe child and her grandmother exploring the natural wonders of each season. Dana zip-tied the laminated pages from this book onto the school fence for groups of children to read the book at eye-level. Dana added wondering questions along the way as well as baskets of acorns, pinecones and feathers for children roll around in their hands.

Building on the success of the day, Dana has featured Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson, and then Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner during the cold of winter. The students and the teachers love it. Together they’ve evaluated and refined their Story Journeys along the way. The Braillist at their school now translates every story so that braille cards are added to the story pages. Dana says the stories are often read aloud by the groups of children wandering together through the story, but the inclusion of all children is an important message for their school. Likewise, they renamed their project to Story Journeys from the original Story Walk found on the Building Faith blog to be caring for all who journey, but may not walk through the story.

Laura Duggin and Dana Burton are now working on their church’s next Story Journey ventures. They are connecting with the businesses along the main street of their town to feature a Story Journey placed page-by-page in the windows of the stores this fall. They are also talking about swapping their laminated Story Journey books with other churches to maximize the opportunities for churches to share stories throughout the year while minimizing the cutting apart of books (that’s the hardest part they both say, as lovers of children’s picture books).

Dana and Laura both said it was a simple project to do that has great impact on the participants. It took abut two hours to cut the pages out of the books and get them laminated and tacked onto yard stakes or tied onto the fence. They found it to be a lovely and simple way to share great stories with all who journey along the pathways.

I wonder about using Story Journeys for outdoor Vacation Bible schools, as a way to feature church library offerings, to be placed in the church gardens for the neighbourhood to enjoy, and/or as an Advent project by the Sunday school. The possibilities are endless.

You can find the original Building Faith blog post “Creating a Story Walk for Faith Formation” HERE

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