Using Stories to Communicate Values
The historical use of stories to convey values at Old Kia Kima were, for the most part, passed on by word of mouth and this has remained so until recent years where the written story has gained some prominence.
There were common themes in those stories passed on by word of mouth. The stories and they were many, usually revolved around some revered camper or Staff member of yore whose values based achievements would almost approach super hero proportions with each retelling. They became a part of the oral history of the camp experience, and as all good stories do which impart values, they linked the past events of the story with important life’s lessons for the future in a method we could refer to today as Character Education by the proxy of Role Model Example.
By retelling stories of ordinary people who behaved in extraordinary ways that others respected and emulated, a high premium is put on the underlying values that were at the heart of the achievements. Here is the “take home message” in this important point: The constant re-telling of these stories has a multiplying effect that extends from a limited current audience to multiple future audiences in a manner not replicated by just one person simply observing another behaving well.
Through the judicious use of these stories where the “Moral” is one of reinforcing core values, the audience can add up to thousands over the life of the story. In the re-telling, the stories that fit into this category often go on to encourage values based behavior in others for an astonishing number of years.
For additional insights into how stories can be used to teach values, consider the points below as outlined by John Heenan, Executive Director of the New Zealand Foundation for Character Education.
“There are a number of reasons why stories are so effective in communicating values."
Stories are interactive.
- They teach by attraction rather than compulsion
- They invite rather than impose
- They capture the imagination and touch the heart
As Henan explains, “There are three ways stories can be used."
- Read and left without comment or discussion to do their own work
- Read until a values issue is raised. At which point the values issue is explored through discussion
- Read through to the end and followed by a set of discussion questions”
Heenan, John (2000) Using Narratives to Communicate Values, Cornerstonevalues.org
William Bennett, in The Book of Virtues (1993), offers an excellent compilation of great moral stories that are a treasure trove for teaching values via story telling. Anyone who chooses the story telling approach to communicate values will find The Book of Virtues a frequently used reference and a handy companion.
Using Skits & Songs to Communicate Values
Skits & Songs provide an excellent humorous and fun method of connecting with ideas that are already known, accepted, and familiar in order to teach unfamiliar or more difficult to grasp concepts like values, and beliefs. Thus, by using what is known and real, skits and songs help build bridges through which we are able to connect both intellectually and emotionally to more complex and intangible concepts.
By using carefully selected skits or songs as a vehicle, our values and related beliefs can be communicated in a manner that is simple and easily understood. This method was used extensively at Old Kia Kima to convey important values, and it was a method that many would still consider today to be their all time favorite way of influencing Character Development. The use of “Parables with a values message” at the close of a campfire (or assembly) would also get very high marks for historical effectiveness at OKK.