The Storytelling Project

The Storytelling Project: Teaching about Racism and Tolerance through Storytelling and the Arts

Dr. Lee Anne Bell, Principal Investigator

The Storytelling Project (STP) links research to practice through the development of a curriculum to teach about race, racism, and social justice using storytelling and the arts. The Storytelling Model is described in detail in a new book by Lee Anne Bell, Storytelling for Social Justice: Connecting Narrative and the Arts in Antiracist Teaching (Routledge, 2010).

Supported by a grant of $100,000 from the Third Millennium Foundation (2004-2005) and a two-year collaboration with the International Center for Tolerance Education (ICTE), the STP model was developed by an interdisciplinary creative team of artists, public school teachers, university faculty and Barnard students. The Creative Team developed the storytelling model and curriculum to teach about race, racism and social justice for middle and high school students. Designed to be flexible; the program can be incorporated into existing school curricula such as English/Language Arts and Social Studies as well as in targeted after-school programs.

An intensive one-week Storytelling, Social Justice and the Arts Institute was provided to New York City public school teachers in summer 2005. The Institute introduced the STP model and curriculum, and engaged teachers in testing and refining activities and materials enabling participating teachers to experience the curriculum as "students" and devise strategies for teaching it in their own classrooms during the following school year.

During 2005-2006, two teachers from the Summer Institute implemented the curriculum in their own classrooms with the support of our team. As their students wrote, told, and performed stories drawn from historical and literary sources and their own lives, they began to see new possibilities for gaining perspective on issues of racism, tolerance and social justice in their own communities. They also developed critical thinking and communication skills through a range of artistic, writing and performance activities that also helped them develop heightened awareness of social justice issues.

As active participants, students and teachers had a significant stake in the process and contributed to research on tolerance education and understanding race and racism, providing feedback and making curricular revisions in collaboration with the creative team.  We assessed the initial year of implementation, tracking student/teacher responses and measuring results of student learning, in order to refine and modify the lessons and activities for wider dissemination to other teachers and schools in New York City and beyond. The STP curriculum is available as a free, downloadable PDF through the link below.

The Storytelling Project Creative Team

Professor Lee Anne Bell, Director of the Barnard Education Program led the project. Dr. Rosemarie A. Roberts a post-Doctoral Research Fellow, social psychologist, and artist served as Project Director. The creative team also included:

  • Thea Abu El-Haj, Assistant Professor in Social Cultural Foundations at Rutgers University
  • Anthony Asaro, middle school teacher at P.S. 104
  • Roger Bonair-Agard, teaching artist and poet
  • Dipti Desai, Director of the Arts Education Program at New York University
  • Leticia Dobzinski and Zoe Duskin, Barnard College Education Program student teachers
  • Christina Glover, high school teacher at Talented Unlimited High School
  • Uraline Septembre Hager, teaching and visual artist
  • Markie Hancock, Documentarian/Filmmaker
  • Kayhan Irani, New York based performance artist
  • Patricia Wagner, grammar school teacher at TAPCO in the Bronx.

bottom left: Z. Duskin, R. Roberts, L. Bell, U. Hager, K. Irani; top left: T. Abu El-Haj, A. Asaro, R. Bonair-Agard, P. Wagner, D. Desai, L. Dobzinski.

For more information contact leebell@barnard.edu.