Billy Goats High, Billy Goats Low: StoryCorner Uses Art And Movement To Bring Stories To Life

Aug 3, 2016

Preschooler Marleny Roasario sat cross-legged on a multi-colored carpet Wednesday, scrunching her face at a blue and purple snaggle-toothed troll. 

Performing artist Amber Ramsey Fantini laughed, bobbing her puppets at the class. "Turn around," she told the girl. "Show your teacher and all the other kids."

The half-hour-long storytelling session at Roosevelt Intermediate School in Carrick is part of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's StoryCorner series, which invites artists like Fantini into pre-K Pittsburgh Public classrooms to tell tales through music, dance, drama and visuals.

Sarah Greenbaum, the trust's early childhood program coordinator, said integrating art into education supports developmental growth and "really allows children of different learning styles to grasp onto concepts in a different way.”

“Some children would learn best by reading the story," she said. "Others would be best by moving along the (road) that the character takes.”

Now in its eighth year, StoryCorner runs year-round at libraries, community centers and schools pairing common children's stories with different educational topics. In the Liberian folktale "Head, Body, Legs," children celebrate human anatomy. With "Too Many Spiders," they explorecreative movement and counting.

In Carrick, Fantini asked youngsters to stretch high and low as they practiced speaking and problem solving skills in an action-oriented retelling of "The Three Billy Goats Gruff." High, middle and low pitches represented the three goats, and preschoolers used their voices as responses to musical cues.

They were also taught different facial expressions before the story began, Greenbaum said, and Fantini recalled them as the story went on.

“They love everything, from the character voices that they get to make, the songs that the teaching artists create, the movement,” Greenbaum said. “They’re not just hearing a story about a character, but they actually get to become the character.”

Ideally, students then transition those skills outside the classroom, she said.

The Remake Learning series is a collaboration of 90.5 WESA, WQED, Pittsburgh Magazine and NEXTpittsburgh.