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November 18th, 2022


Why we tell stories.

"Stories from the oral tradition began around hearthside and campfire. These tales were almost always fantastic in nature, involving magic or talking animals. Initially, they provided entertainment for adults, who freely altered details as they told and retold the stories. As adults shared these stories, children lounged around and listened.Because these stories were born in the oral tradition, no one knows who first told each tale and which version is original. Therefore, folklore may be defined as stories that originated orally and have no authors."

Children and Young Adult Literature

Storytelling has many functions. Arguably the most important one is passing down culture - stories are a way to compare the
past to the present, showing how older solutions impacted what we view as our communal identity. There are dark sides
to storytelling as well, such as enforcing negative stereotypes. As we conclude our week of folk art, we take a look at some of the ways in which storytelling as a whole gives vibrancy and color to the world we live in, and tells us more about the communities we are a part of.

In the lesson below, take your students through the Model for Studying Place as it pertains to literature. These keystone concepts will allow your students to conceptualize geography as a study of humanity moving through the world, and the ways in which literature holds a mirror up to that process. Using the book Everglades by Jean Craighead George as an example, students will begin to understand storytelling as a means of understanding the relationship between people and place.

Lesson written by the Florida Geographic Alliance.

As students gain a more comprehensive knowledge of place and their role in it, encourage them to participate in a lesson like the one below. The Local Folk Art Brochure is a great way to bring the concepts they learned in the previous lesson into reality. Students will apply what they learned to a practical product, and will get to use their creativity while examining their own communities.

Lesson written by the Florida Geographic Alliance.

Myth and Legend

Finally, we take a look at the role oral storytelling plays in geographical study. In Boogeyman, students will break down common legends passed down through their own communities - and realize that they too are a part of an unfolding history.

Lesson written by the Florida Geographic Alliance.


For our concluding activity, we turn to the impact that storytelling has in our personal lives. At the heart of geography is story - every map, every migration, every environmental catalyst has a story to tell about life on Earth. This applies to YOU as well.

Florida has a special place in the story of the world.

Many oral histories, and later books, reflect our personal experiences living through history as it is being made. One such story comes from a native Florida teacher who saw her own family's story mirrored back at her while reading the classic novel Strawberry Girl. Read about her experience below, and listen to two exclusive recordings of the chapters that inspired it all:

Written by the Florida Geographic Alliance.

Strawberry Girl: Audio Exerpts 

Strawberry Girl: IntroLois Lenski | Narrated by Liz Curtis
00:00 / 03:11
Strawberry Girl: Cane GrindingLois Lenski | Narrated by Liz Curtis
00:00 / 14:51

Continue discussing identity and storytelling by introducing your students to other famous storybooks set in Florida, their own home state. Below are a few selections recommended by Alliance teachers: 

Throughout the week we have covered a myriad of geographically important folk art mediums - but there is so much more to be explored. Food, dance, architecture and other forms of folk history and culture have just as much significance in our identities as Floridians.


As you and your students reflect on this week, take with you the curiosity about your own experiences that you might apply to a beautiful piece of art or a good story.


Your life is both, after all!



Print and hand out copies of this article about the Lectors of Ybor City to your students.


Discuss with the class the role that storytelling plays in a community for spreading ideas. What sorts of oral histories have been passed down to them in their communities?


How has it shaped their understanding of the world?

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