Last week, we drove out to the Gardner School for Arts and Science's beautiful campus in rural Clark County to join as students gathered outside for an assembly with Master Storyteller Will Hornyak. A long-time partner of Clark County Green Schools, Will has been delivering his creative stories that highlight the importance of waste reduction to students for over 15 years. His tall tales about the adventures of Sam the Banana, Nick the Nematode, Compostalina, and other inventive characters weave together traditional folktales with timeless lessons inspiring children to respectfully steward their home: the earth.
Teachers at the Gardner School found that Will's presentation was an excellent opportunity to build upon the already impressive environmental curriculum that they provide their students. The stories reinforced why we need to compost and recycle, with an emphasis on the power that our individual actions can have. By casting student volunteers to play different characters, Will ensured his audience was actively engaged throughout the lesson. There was a genuine sense of partnership fostered over the course of the assembly; it felt like the audience was playing an equally important role in telling the stories as Will himself.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Will has also adapted his storytelling for a virtual format. He has impressively navigated the barriers that Zoom presents and maintained the interactive elements that make his lessons so captivating. We dropped in on such a virtual lesson at Dorothy Fox Elementary School. Will still chose student volunteers to participate, and they would gather around their teacher's camera to repeat the lines he told them. He also involved many props and visuals that were easy for the students to see. After the stories, students were eager to ask Will questions about recycling and composting, exemplifying the balance between entertainment and education that his storytelling strikes.
Will's lessons are a powerful example of the important role that storytelling plays in generating behavior change. He helps students creatively recognize the relationship between their actions and the greater impact they can have in the world. An integral aspect of environmental education is connecting students to the larger "story" of sustainability and how they fit into it, which Will does masterfully. Whether his stories are told virtually or in-person, their effect remains the same. He empowers students to take action in their community, leaving them with the message that no matter how small their voice might seem, they can make a big difference by channeling the power of compost.
Will's visits are a free service funded by Clark County Green Schools, and can be especially useful for schools who may benefit from assistance in their waste sorting. If you are interested in scheduling an assembly for your school, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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