Monday, May 29, 2017

Hill Students Take "Tell Me a Story' to New Level

Photo courtesy of The Hill School
Gene Chung, a sophomore from McLean Virginia, records his story for children battling cancer at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by The Hill School.

Children battling serious diseases face countless challenges in addition to the taxing treatments they must endure. Mentally, they must deal with fear, anxiety, and social isolation, among other concerns. 

Long waits at the hospital for treatment, often while confined to waiting areas, only add to their stress.

This spring, students of Mark Pearson, Ph.D., an instructor of English and Director of the Humphrey Family Writing Center at The Hill School (Pottstown, Pa.), participated in a service learning project they hope will bring healthy diversion and inspiration to children at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

Pearson, a graduate of The Hill School’s class of ’78 and a published author, asked two of his English classes to write “porquoi tales” for young children. 

Porquoi means “why” in French, and the stories typically answer a question such as “why is the sky blue?” or “how did the moon learn to ‘fly’?”

Furthermore, the classes collaborated with Hill’s Director of Electronic Media Andy Skitko, who facilitated recording sessions using the School’s media production studio, where students read their own stories. 

The end result will be production of a professional-quality CD with compilations of the original folktales. The CD will be given in May to children at CHOP for their listening enjoyment as they are waiting for treatment and recovering.

“Part of my students’ assignment was to learn about writing for a specific
Hill School teacher Mark Pearson
audience,” Pearson says. “We also spent some time studying Native American stories. Through this assignment, the students have a real audience for their own creative folktales.”

Pearson led a similar project when he taught previously at the Kinkaid School in Houston, Texas, for children at Texas Children’s Hospital. In that case, Pearson worked with a company called Reading For The Blind to create the recordings.

At The Hill, Pearson mentioned the story writing-and- recording idea to a friend, Linda Zitkus, a CHOP pediatric nurse and the mother of two current Hill students and a recent alumna. Zitkus then connected Pearson with Rebecca Rector, a certified child life specialist in CHOP’S oncology and bone marrow transplant division. 

Rector was thrilled to learn about the project and is eager to share the completed results with patients at the hospital.

“Our students are really excited about this project,” Pearson notes. “I know from my work with Texas Children’s Hospital that children really like listening to stories read by other ‘children.’ And our Hill students like the idea of doing something special for the children at CHOP, specifically.”

The completed CD will contain stories written and read by the 22 students who participated.

The students’ porquoi story topics range from why there are four seasons and why trees grow to be so tall, to why the turtle has a shell.

Sine Polcharoen, a student from Thailand and author of the pepper story, says she enjoyed the creative process of “animating inanimate objects” and knowing that the result may help to brighten a child’s day.

Madeline Kollar of Spring City, says she crafted her story about how trees came to bear fruit to include a moral about never giving up. Interesting, she adds, “I always wanted to work somehow with kids from CHOP, so knowing that I can have an impact, even an indirect one, makes me feel like I’m contributing to the ‘greater good.’”

In writing her folktale about the moon, Brittany Bardman of Oley, wanted to create a story about “inner beauty” and to convey that “outer beauty is not nearly as important as inner beauty.”

“I love knowing that my English project will be used in a wonderful cause,” says Madison Kershner, a student from Gilbertsville. “I hope the children love it!”

As for Dr. Pearson, he hopes to make the English class project an annual assignment and to continue this meaningful collaboration with CHOP.

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