• Chris Cyrus

How We Build Heroes with Stories

Self-esteem is a vital part of our sense of self, and people often develop a concrete sense of self while in their childhood and adolescence. So, how do we make sure we build that esteem up, creating more confident, happy campers? At The Story School’s camps, self-esteem grows because “challenges build as the days and weeks progress, by doing more and more conflicts, more people they meet, and forming a more cohesive group,” according to our Camp Director, Haley Mosher.


Paul Spanagel, our Curriculum Coordinator, adds “For kids who don’t like to fight with weapons, individuals find the role they feel is best for them, and developing camaraderie helps them take on bigger challenges.” These things are pretty much the same in both virtual and in-person environments.


Campers connect with their new friends outside of camp, too. Paul said, “When kids used Google Classroom, they set up times to meet separately after the camp.” They also try new activities, and sometimes that turns into new interests to pursue outside of camp.


Katie Morris, a part-time Instructor with a variety of hats and roles to play, explains how campers learn within the story. “In P&P (Points & Powers), if you introduce a concept, they’re more interested in understanding the concept if it’s in context. So, instead of ‘let’s talk about currency...in an encounter, here’s the money you have to use and convert,” Haley concludes. Says Paul “And why doesn’t everyone use dollars?” sarcastically, mimicking what a camper might ask. “They get into it.”


“Being inquisitive during class is big,” Haley says. Students wonder why resources are allocated differently in different geographic locations. “Why is one putting skyscrapers when they’re traveling through the city? How come Dirt Pond has all abandoned buildings, versus when we went to Sunfield, but no one cared when we had a pizza party?”


“We often cover human rights issues in classes. We give kids a space to interact with, the way they’d like to. Free play.” Hayley explains, compared to traditional schooling, “it’s [less structured, it’s], not required to raise your hand or go to desks. Kids can interact by talking or facial [expressions]. We have safety rules, but otherwise [it’s open].”


“Having a safe space is helpful to many issues related to self-esteem,” Paul adds. "You are safe here, so you have choices. Your presence is welcome.” Haley continues, saying there are “no uniforms; everyone accepts things that look different. No one cares if you have the most expensive costume or not. Many kids create their own costumes. That ownership of what you’ve created is important to them.”


So, the welcoming and open environment in the context of a story seems to work well for the development of self-esteem. But there are lots of types of role-playing adventures in the world. Our story-based adventures are educational. According to our team, other types usually don’t have the same priorities. “They give customers an opportunity to escape in a fantasy world, or a historical re-enactment,” for a short amount of time, but it doesn’t change their lives. “But we tailor everything to kids,” Haley says. “We get to know every individual and their passions.”


Reports from parents and kids also show how kids have changed for the better because of our adventures. Haley explains “Parents say their kid is shy, but [in our environment], that’s the kid that will never stop talking.”


Paul says our adventures help kids with “social skills; we create opportunities to cultivate better people. We use this as a learning space where kids are able to become the heroes they imagine themselves as, instead of going back to [their] lives the way they were. Kids say it’s the place where they felt able to become their best version.”


We recently received a glowing testimonial from one of our mothers: "My daughter is High Functioning ASD. Because of this, most typical afterschool activities and camps don’t work for her. Often, she can only be in programs designed for kids with special needs. The Story School is a wonderful exception. Their programs encourage kids to use their imaginations and creativity to add to the story being told. This is not a passive program, it’s an active one where kids can immerse as much as they like in the story and be part of its unfolding. This provides a flexible environment that meets my daughter’s needs. Along the way, the kids solve problems, work as a team, exercise, and so much more."


If you are interested in trying your hand at one of our adventures or giving your young hero the chance to grow in a story-based world, let us know what stories you love and we'll find the perfect quest for you and yours. Contact us today and let your story begin!


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