Helping K-12 students explore the art of storytelling

November 8, 2011 •

Associate Professor William McGinley is no stranger to innovative outreach projects that significantly impact communities, K-12 students and teachers. His latest project, Tell Your Story: Composing a Life, integrates storytelling, creative writing and visual arts in teaching a diverse group of middle school students to memorialize important life experiences.

“The telling of our own life story is the one creative work of art in which we are all engaged,” McGinley said. “This program provides young people with art-based opportunities to imagine and tell their stories.”

An expert in young adult literature, memoir and literacy from CU-Boulder’s School of Education, McGinley co-founded the project with three teachers from Casey Middle School and involved collaboration from faculty and students in the School of Education and the Department of Art and Art History with teachers from the Boulder Valley School District.

During the school year, middle school students engage in a series of memoir-making and portrait-making workshops that are a hybrid of language and visual arts courses. The project gives young people an opportunity to create, discover and make sense of themselves at a pivotal time in their lives. Students produce written memoirs, audiorecorded performances, self-portraits and sculptural art works. Visual and audio projects are shared with classmates and the school community.

Each summer more than 50 local students participate in a two-week exploration of personal storytelling through memoir, ceramics, portraiture, bookmaking, poetry writing and creative performance in the new Visual Arts Complex on the CU-Boulder campus.

In both of these programs, students are provided with instruction to develop poetic and visual works of art that highlight reflective and life-informing experiences. One teacher remarked, “they’re telling such vastly different stories, yet all stories of young lives—Bosnian stories, border stories, Boulder stories—using vivid details that help them to put together a life for themselves and others.”