How Stories Inform

Dappled sunlight sparkles and twinkles from a mysterious source partially obscured by fern fronds and gum leaves. Wide-eyed and excited children rush forward into the bushland reserve, enveloped by the sights, sounds and smells of the bush—birdsong, water gently cascading over rocks, silver-gray gum leaves rustling overhead and then they see her—a vision of glitter and rainbow hues, a beautiful bush fairy with jeweled wand hovering on a ledge of mossy sandstone by the creek. The children are mesmerized by the tantalizing spectacle. The fairy smiles and invites them to join her for a bush walk. How could they resist?

But first, fairy uses her wand to scatter magical fairy dust over the participants to focus on each sensory modality (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch). The magic is to enhance the sensory experience, to encourage and challenge them to see and hear more, to search beyond the obvious and to engender wonderment. The children respond immediately with "sightings"—is that a possum tail dangling from the tree? What bird is that? Why is that leaf speckled and twisted? Where has the spider gone from the web? What was that rustling in the long grass? Is that more fairy dust sprinkled near the fungi? So much excitement, anticipation, questions. The children are engaged through their senses into heightened awareness and valuable interaction has begun. (Lalak, 2003, p. 72)

For the past six years Nadia Lalak (2003; Eva & Lalak, 2003), a psychologist, landscape consultant, and environmental educator, has enchanted schoolchildren with environment-oriented fairy stories. Her project aims to raise environmental awareness, inspire ecological consciousness, facilitate an enhanced experience oflandscape, and develop a child's sense ofplace in the world. Local resources, such as bushland reserves, are used to provide children with a direct experience of an easily accessible, natural world. Through tales of the bush fairy, the children develop an understanding of the landscape, nature's interrelationships, and the impacts of urbanization.

Lalak bases her approach to informing environmental awareness on the Confucian proverb that says,

Teach me and I will forget. Show me and I remember. But involve me and I will understand.

For her, stories are an integral part of that process of involvement of children in understanding information. She says, "Away from a classroom and whiteboard, children respond enthusiastically to creative interpretations of landscape and ecological issues and the opportunity to be involved in magic, mystery, storytelling, role-playing, environmental games and fun" (Lalak, 2003, p. 73).

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