The Imagine Project (TIP) is currently working with the incredible staff at Woodland Elementary in Cherry Creek Schools in Colorado to make Imagine story writing a foundational piece of their school culture in order to support the social emotional wellness of their students. When you walk in the door, their school’s just cause is proudly framed as an Imagine story.
Imagine feeling a sense of belonging where you are valued, seen, and heard.
Imagine taking action in equity, celebrating diversity, and empowering others.
Imagine believing all children can learn.
Imagine engaging in an inclusive, dynamic, and resilient culture.
Imagine creating a brave space that sparks joy, wonder, and a passion for learning.
The teachers at Woodland first experienced The Imagine Project for themselves during work week in August. The next step was to utilize their students’ imagine stories for a school-wide cultural identity project that involved their entire community. An essential part of the success the teachers at Woodland are experiencing can be attributed to partnering with their students’ families from the outset.
The first Imagine story that the teachers wrote with their students was focused on the feelings students had starting a new school year. This was particularly important because Woodland is a brand new school, but it is a topic that all teachers, students, and families have a variety of feelings about. They used the stories to get to know their students’ past school experiences as well as their hopes for the upcoming year. They then sent the stories home and invited their students’ families to write a story of their own as a way to communicate past experiences, concerns, fears, and hopes with their child’s teacher. The letter they sent home can be found on The Imagine Project’s website here. As you can see, not only does the letter explain the purpose and power of writing an Imagine story, it also provides a guided tool for writing one. From here, every family was informed and invited to participate in Imagining Woodland.
Over the first few weeks of school, teachers have used The Imagine Project in their classrooms to allow their students to talk about any challenges they might be experiencing in their lives, past or present. This gives the students the opportunity to learn the technique and flow of The Imagine Project, as well as creating a safe space for emotional expression, compassion and camaraderie in the classroom. Now, the teachers are moving toward purposefully planning for the use of The Imagine Project throughout their curriculum. Here are some of their ideas:
- In kindergarten they will be writing/drawing/telling stories focused on identifying different feelings in picture books in order to build empathy and perspective taking skills.
- In first grade they will be writing/drawing Imagine stories to go with their study of biographies where students will use everything they have learned about their inspirational person to help others understand that person’s life experience.
- In second grade they plan to write Imagine stories from the perspective of changing landforms (volcanoes, earthquakes, etc.) as a summative assessment where students will show their understanding of the scientific processes involved while personifying their chosen landform.
- In third grade students will be focusing their Imagine stories on the social studies topic of human migration as they demonstrate a deeper understanding of why people move from place to place and then connect it to their family’s story.
- In fourth grade students will be studying different perspectives on the important events during Colorado’s history and expressing them through Imagine stories.
- In fifth grade imagine stories will be used to help navigate the emotions that arise with the transition to middle school.
All the grades are planning to use The Feelings Wheel (download it here) as a tool for conversation and conflict resolution in their classrooms as issues arise interpersonally (friendship issues) and collectively (playground issues). We have been given generous permission from its creator, Bret Stein, to share The Feelings Wheel with you. It is an integral part of the Center for Nonviolent Communication, and now we are using it to help people identify feelings that can help drive their Imagine stories. Look for future blog posts about how this tool can be used to write Imagine stories.
It is very exciting to see a school so committed to understanding that addressing the individual barriers to learning, practicing empathy, expressing emotions, and holding space for each other’s story are essential to educating the whole child. If you are interested in helping your school experience and incorporate The Imagine Project into its culture please contact Dianne (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will be happy to help. You can begin by downloading The Imagine Project journal for your classroom here (it’s free).
Happy Imagining! Thank you,
Dianne Maroney, RN, MSN
Thank you to Todd Daubert for contributing this blog to The Imagine Project!