Bettendorf Middle School Art Teacher Ellen Craig was selected as one of only 52 participants of the 2018 National Gallery of Art Teacher Institute on Storytelling and the Visual Arts held in Washington, D.C., in July of 2018. The six-day seminar brought together k-12 teachers from across the country to explore the connection of storytelling to learning, and the ways teachers can use art objects with storytelling activities in the classroom.
Until the twentieth century, art was largely narrative. Whether religious, mythological, or literary, paintings and sculpture were vehicles for storytelling. Part of the program emphasized decoding and interpreting narrative works of art, while building language and critical thinking skills in the process. Creative writing activities focused on the unique stories objects can generate in the minds of imaginative viewers. Some sessions explored the theatrical dimensions of storytelling by using visual art as a prompts for dramatic interpretation. The program closed with a concert that demonstrated how even music, past and present, could be used to convey values, immortalize historic events, or deliver coded messages as when enslaved Americans used songs and their lyrics to discreetly guide those travelling the underground railway.
The Institute also included an intensive hands-on tutorial in which teachers told their own stories about art by creating short electronic movies—a format appealing to students of all ages and having a wide variety of curriculum applications. With the help of coaches, teachers wrote, edited, and developed their short stories through a process of script writing, storyboarding, voice-over narration, and working with digital images.