Poseidon’s trident, an Olympic medal, a gold leafed treasure box with incantations inside and an illustrated toga. These were some of the things my two boys made at The Story Museum in Oxford over the week end. I have fallen in love with the whole idea of the Story Museum and feel the urge to spread the word.
We attended an artist led, children’s art and craft class with the theme of ancient Greeks where there were approximately ten other children with accompanying adults in a pleasant space industriously making their Greek inspired creations. Francesca Shakespeare, the artist leading the class, initially challenged the children to make artifacts to adorn three Olympic statues she had previously made at the Ashmoleon. This was an excellent way of bringing some unity to what inevitably were very separate groups of children and their adults wandering around in their own ‘Olympian’ worlds with little notice of anybody else.
Here is a group photograph of them all at the end with Francesca Shakespeare (right) and her statues as well. You can see some of the adornments the children have made for her statues, laurel leaf crowns, golden shields, medals, swords and thunder bolts.
The museum does lots of work with schools, communities, and run the well known Alice’s Day in Oxford celebrating Lewis Carol’s book Alice in Wonderland. What I personally love and feel so passionate about is the philosophy of the museum itself, the belief and conviction that through good stories and story telling children can develop and improve language, life and emotions.
Story telling is an art and to weave a good yarn one needs a good story teller and a good listener. The skill of listening is an important one, and it is something we do less and less of as technology moves on and the lure of visual stimuli engage our attentions. I vividly remember being read to for hours as a child and experiencing the heart break of the poacher trapping and killing Tarka the otter, the anger and horror when Achilles drags the body of Hector around the Trojan wall and the fascination at the skillful baby Hermes making a lyre out of a tortoise shell for his brother Apollo. These were all stories I heard between the ages of five and seven and having no television and long tropical rainy seasons we had many days to wander strange realms whilst still sitting on our sheltered back doorstep.
My own children have been captivated by stories and I can see the positive effect it has on their use of language, speech, literacy, emotional understanding, inference skills, and imagination. All children deserve this and should have the opportunity to be told stories by someone, hopefully some important person in their lives that makes that experience a positive and special one. But if that isn’t the case, then what better place to begin a love affair with stories than at The Story Museum itself.