Current educational research suggests that experiential learning is a primary component of academic success. Every college campus in the US is abuzz with terms like “collaborative development, service learning, community experience and civic engagement”. The common denominators are a universal desire to place students into “Actively Doing” vs. “Passively Knowing” learning environments, and a universal frustration as to how to implement structured programming.
Today’s students are from a different world than the knowledge‐based education systems of yesterday. With multiple sources of information at their fingertips (literally), today’s students are craving lessons in the application of their knowledge. This marks a crucially important moment in the history of higher education: Professors are now required to be facilitators of learning in addition to distributors of knowledge. The dissemination of knowledge remains important – but not nearly as important as collaborating with students to apply their knowledge to their lives, their worlds, their communities, their families and their future vocations.
Traditional methods of fact memorization must be replaced with strategies for conflict resolution; passive in-class listening must be replaced with innovations in community building; independent study preferences must be replaced with multi‐cultural identity exploration. We must prepare the next generation for the world they are entering rather than the world we lived in decades ago. We must not merely work “outside the box”; we must break the box! We must provide tools for moving the knowledge from the head to the heart. We must provide students with the vocabulary to tell their stories, for this is what will be required of them at every personal and professional crossroad of their lives. They must learn to tell their stories well if they are to positively impact their lives and the worlds they live in. The best way to learn how to do this is from the source of storytelling: drama.
This is the essential backbone of our work in education and teacher training. Its foundations and core curriculum derive from the work of our partner, Prof. Drew Kahn, Founder of the Anne Frank Project at SUNY-Buffalo State. In Drew’s words: Storytelling is the universal processing vocabulary of the human race. The skillset used to create original stories is identical to those necessary for conflict resolution, community building and the exploration of identity. While current education trends may provide knowledge of how systems operate, they rarely provide tangible tools for students to navigate the complexities of their lives. The Story-Based Learning curriculum teaches tangible skills and enhanced vocabulary that will impact the lives of students, their families and communities. In short, instead of focusing on what they know, our methods focus on what students can do with what they know. This creative and collaborative process engages students in specific action steps that directly transfer to their lives as they build their stories.
Opportunities for international students, faculty and professionals:
- Research: Collaborative research initiatives, research fellowships (unpaid), project-specific research practica
- Education & training: Story-Based Learning field courses and community field experiences as well as more general ed teach abroad internships