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“Story Buddies”: Intergenerational Storytelling

April 14, 2011

These pictures are from an inter-generational storytelling program I did recently. If you look closely, you may see a sense of pride; a wonderful bit of playfulness in the faces. The program – called “Story Buddies” – was created by Nebraska storyteller, Nancy Duncan, and involves elders sharing stories of their own youth with children or young adults. Later, the young listeners create another version of the story to “share back” with their “buddy”. It sounds so simple – and it is – but, in our modern world with families so fragmented, these kinds of intergenerational exchanges can be few and far between. “Story Buddies” merely revitalizes a kind of communication that is centuries old.

These Story Buddies were residents of an assisted living facility and a middle school Sunday School class. As with most “Story Buddies” programs I have facilitated, both groups were more than a little reluctant at first. Positive and enthusiastic leadership in both groups is absolutely essential. I did a pre-session with the students in which we outlined steps of the program, discussed elders and aging, and practiced oral interviewing. Preparation for the elders consisted of reflecting and remembering when they were the age of their audience – and creating the story.

 

As a storyteller/ facilitator, it is sometimes wonderful to just stand back and watch what happens. The first thing that happened at this session was the whoosh! of energy when the students came into the room. “Do you feel it?” I asked the elders, and the happy – and dazed – smiles answered my question. I watched, as the respect and good listening skills of the kids energized the elders, making their stories longer and more lively than in practice. A bond was being formed; a new appreciation of one generation by another. And it was FUN!

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