We all enjoy a good story. We have favorites we love to hear and those we tell over and over. Whether a child or a parent, an iconic vision of a good childhood includes being tucked into bed and lulled to sleep with a good story. Not a day goes by when we don’t engage in telling one story or another. It’s a powerful and common tool for essential communication and learning.

Why is that?

Stories forge connections. Our stories convey much about culture, history, and values, making it easy to see the connections that bind us together and better understand any differences that remain. It’s also easier to broach provocative topics, such as emotions, justice, and hope when placed in a story. 

Stories stick with people. Psychologist Peg Neuhauser found that learning which stems from a well-told story is remembered more accurately, and for far longer than learning derived from facts and figures. Few can tolerate being spoon-fed facts and figures, but a good story can go a long way in helping us ingest and digest essential information, explicit and implied. Each of us has experienced this phenomenon.

Storytelling sets the stage for equity. No matter what your socio-economic background, no matter your learning style, no matter your age or personal experience, we all have ample supplies of stories. Teaching through stories allows for everyone to engage and learn from each other.

The Impact of Digital Media Storytelling

The Afterschool Alliance reports, “Today, a new digital divide is emerging — one defined in terms of interaction rather than access. There is a growing awareness of the inequalities that exist in the way that youth are interacting with digital media, whereas affluent youth are more likely to behave as ‘content producers,’ while disadvantaged youth tend to be ‘content consumers.’ Through the process of creating digital content — such as blogs, zines, videos, and digital art — youth who are content producers are acquiring a number of key skills and competencies, including a more comprehensive understanding of intellectual property, opportunities for cultural expression, and the importance of active citizenship. Youth who sit on the sidelines as content consumers will be left behind as they enter institutions of higher education and, eventually, the workplace.” 

Presenting Mountain Echoes Story Works

We want to ensure that each of our Junior Crew members is encouraged to become a ‘content producer’ in their lives. To make sure that our youth are learning new skills, understanding intellectual property, and are never sitting on the sidelines, we’ve developed Mountain Echoes Story Works as a way to teach them how to create and produce digital content. In this program, our Junior Crew builds the confidence and techniques to express themselves through regular tasks and production challenges, which teaches them the art of storytelling. 

Wardensville Garden Market and Mountain Echoes Story Works proactively address this digital divide trend through a variety of experiential learning assignments, such as by providing training and professional equipment and software programs for our Junior Crew to not only assemble digital content projects but to learn the basic skills behind these tools. Junior Crew work in collaboration with each other and with various departments within our organization. Besides technical skills, they are exposed to the power of using stories as a leadership tool to influence, inspire, and raise awareness. 

While still in its beginning stages, we have produced a total of nine 5×5 challenges (check them out here!), written scripts for mock infomercials, and developed a growing library of sound effects. Junior Crew also serve as production assistants in staff and product highlights, introducing them as many diverse roles as possible. 

Savannah Keller, a Youth Advancement department intern, has been with us since late 2019 and shares, “My job is so unique. What I look forward to when coming into work is being able to work on projects that I am passionate about. When I have an idea for something, they encourage me to run with it and try it out. It’s absolutely crazy that I can call this my job!”

Through our learning environments, we offer an important opportunity for youth to explore their own identities and engage with the world around them in ways that are exciting, relevant, and driven by their interests.  And it’s working. Elvira Camarillo, a Junior Crew since the Fall of 2020, says, “I am absolutely having the most fun. It doesn’t feel like work, or like you’re learning at school. I get to meet different people from different places while also learning new things about myself.”  

Getting involved in the Mountain Echoes Story Works program challenges youth to explore issues impacting their communities. Through developing media projects, we engage in critical discussions, conduct research, engage community members, and reflect on our work. Eventually, we plan to flex our entrepreneurial muscles by leading a storytelling enterprise where youth will independently develop short productions, from conception to completion, for their community. 

This is definitely a group to keep an eye on. You can also engage in some of our monthly challenges. Simply follow our Instagram and Facebook feed for updates and use our hashtag, #WGM5X5. 

Want to support the Mountain Echoes Story Works program? Make a donation today to help more student storytellers start their journey.

Siara Gaylord

Siara Gaylord

Digital Media Manager

Hey, I’m Siara and I’m an enthusiastic independent scholar. With a passion for editing, I’ve honed my skills through intensive master classes and internships across the country. Other passions of mine include reading, scenic carpentry and anything involving good food.