Anderson, Indiana

AU alumni active in after-school digital storytelling program

Wed, 2013-04-03 08:25 -- univcomm
Kristin Stayer
April 3, 2013

Many keep photos as mementos of good times past. Students in Storytellers of Anderson use them to tell stories of their past, present, and hopes for the future.

The program, in its first year, is the result of a partnership between the Park Place Community Center and Fireside International, a nonprofit media company. The children have been capturing their lives in photos since February, using digital cameras provided to them free of charge.

“They have a valuable story to tell,” said Anderson University alumna Kristin Stayer, director of the community center. “We want them to be creative with how they see the world and convey that to other people.”

The course is being offered to kids in grades kindergarten through sixth from the community center’s After School Fun program.

[Photo: Kristin Stayer and Faith Bond look at photos and video shot by Faith.]

Amrutha Pulikottil, operations manager of Fireside and also an AU alumna, said they want the students to leave with better communication skills crucial to doing well not only in the classroom and future workplace, but life.

But, she added, they also want to promote self-discovery and self-confidence in the process.

“We tell the kids to be their own main character instead of being someone else’s side character,” she said.

While the kids tell their stories digitally, they sometimes write little stories to go with their photos.

Faith Bond, 9, said they “take a lot” of pictures of things that are important to them, like family members.

She added she’s made new friends and learned in the process.

“You can do anything with your life and with your story,” Bond said, noting all have stories to tell.

While the center offers tutoring and other classes like gardening, it’s the first time it’s offered anything like Storytellers, Stayer said.

Amrutha PulikottilPhotographers and writers come in as speakers from time to time. Local photographer and AU alum Larry Stuart, for example, came in and taught them how to use the cameras and went over photography basics, Pulikottil said.

[Photo: Amrutha Pulikottil helps Destiny Cox choose one of her photos for a blog post.]

As part of the learning process, the students explain their photos, peer review each other’s work, and receive tips from the adults on what they can do to improve.

If it weren’t for Storytellers and After School Fun, Destiny Cox, 11, said she’d likely just be at home, sitting around watching television.

“I think it’s fun because I’ve really never gotten to do something like this ever,” she said.

Knoah Marling, 10, said his favorite thing to take pictures of is his pets, but his favorite assignment was one involving snapping photos of funny people. He took some of his cousin.

For their first project, the students took photos with their favorite and least favorite objects. Pulikottil said it was based off the New York blog “Weight of Objects.”

The kids had to talk and write about why the objects are important to them.

Marling said writing and photography are both great methods of storytelling.

“It’s really fun to do stuff I’ve never done before,” he added.

Along with really delving into photography, many of the kids will also be blogging for the first time.

At the end of the course in May, the kids will put their pictures, along with any video they take, together to build a blog that can be viewed by the public at storytellersofanderson.tumblr.com.

— Dani Palmer is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Story reposted with permission. Photos: Don Knight/The Herald Bulletin.

AU editorial note: Fireside International was founded by Anderson University alum Luke Renner, who serves as the company's president.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.