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APW Students Learn and Laugh with Visiting Storyteller

Students at APW Elementary School were recently visited by storyteller and performance artist Vanessa Johnson for a fun-filled day of traditional stories and cultural exploration.

On Friday, April 28, students from preschool to sixth grade were delighted by performances from Johnson. Based in Syracuse, Johnson is a self-styled griot, a travelling storyteller and oral historian traditionally from West Africa. Her work in schools involves vibrant tales originally from Africa and African-American culture. Encouraging students to participate in the performance through hand gestures and call-and response, Johnson was sure to create an engaging and entertaining experience for APW students.

"Our students are used to getting stories from watching video games or the internet,” said Dawn Cooley, APW Elementary Principal. “This was an excellent opportunity to expose our students to a different type of storytelling. The students were able to engage with Mrs. Johnson and learn a life lesson with each story she told."

Though much of Johnson’s work was in an assembly-style setting, she also had the opportunity to work with AM and PM UPK students more directly, encouraging them to try out African hand instruments and participate actively in her tales.

“Students reacted very positively to our guest,” noted Sara Bostick, the school’s library media specialist. “After hearing her stories they were excited to greet her in the hallway throughout the day.  I was very proud of the respect they showed her, which I believe is indicative of how well they connected with her and her stories.”