Celebrating Strengths: A School Project with VIA at its Heart
May 16, 2014 by VIA Contributor ·
A few weeks ago I once more visited the wonderful Downshall Primary School, a school that is embedding character strengths across the curriculum as a way of building confidence and enjoyment in students and teachers. My visit was part of Downshall’s Festival of Wisdom celebrations.
I focused on storytelling and on spotting strengths in stories. It was my pleasure to lead two assemblies – Downshall is a BIG primary school – one for 4-7 year-olds and and the other for 8-11 year-olds.
And I told a story that is over 1000 years old, the story of Benno and the Beasts. In this story, Benno, a monk, learns WISDOM as he realizes that there is beauty all around him and not just in his own prayers. And the children joined with me in retelling the story – they were perfect at providing the sound effects of the various animals Benno met on his walks around the countryside – and then in silent reflection on what ‘WISDOM’ means to each one of us. We also called to mind a wise person in our own lives, someone to whom we could dedicate all the work we did that day, a GRATITUDE practice that I have developed and use in my own life and work as well as teaching in schools.
Later, in several classrooms, I told the story of Rainbow Rider, a retelling of my own based on the book of the same name by Jane Yolen. Again, this was followed by reflection, although the reflection took different forms. For the 4 year olds, reflection meant creating a picture (out of smarties) inspired by the story. For the 10 year olds it meant a 30-minute, thoughtful discussion of which strengths they felt the story embodied the most. We used a set of strengths postcards and moved them into and out of a circle as we discussed together which 5 strengths belonged at the heart of the story.
The children’s comments were insightful and opened my eyes to seeing aspects of a story I know well, in new ways. Stories and reflection together – bringing character strengths to life and deepening learning.
Thank you Jenny Fox Eades, from Celebrating Strengths, for sharing this story!