Learning is fun, we’ve all known that for a long time, haven’t we? But learning can also be a challenge and Story Planet likes to be there to help out and show students fun, effective approaches to classroom learning outside the classroom.
Each Tuesday, students from elementary schools in the neighbourhood would bring their homework to Story Planet where volunteers would guide them through anything from reading homework to math worksheets. Naturally, we incorporated some creative elements into the workshops so students had a chance to take a break and write a postcard to their future self, read a book from our library, or write their own story! Some of our volunteers are ESL-certified and worked with students who needed additional language help, which can be high priority in some parts of Toronto. The funding generously provided by CIBC’s Children’s Foundation created a space for students to see a fun side of learning!
“Homework Club is a good place to do your homework!” — Navina, Homework Club student
This year marked the 2nd Annual Essay Bootcamp, in collaboration with Innis College at the University of Toronto. Students were paired one-on-one with volunteers who guide them through the structure and technique of writing an effective end-of-term paper. The day ended with a tour of the University of Toronto, introducing students to academic and campus life and answering those early questions about what life after high school is all about. A huge thanks to No Frills, Fiesta Farms, and Loblaws for donating supplies for our afternoon BBQ.
There are so many ways to make a story! Read on to learn about how Story Planet’s youth creators told their stories through film and stop-motion animation this year. We can’t wait to screen the finished products this fall and continue introducing youth to new models of storytelling with the help of our expert volunteers and amazing sponsors.
Digi Storymaking Project
For 12 weeks starting back in September 2013, Toronto youth aged 13-18 took part in a digital story-making project at Story Planet. Thanks to HIVE, Story Planet was able to provide this after school program with many tools to help bring the bright imaginations of digi story-makers alive.
Click on the photo below to check out the finished products!
Youth Filmmakers Project
The Young Filmmaker’s Project invited 20 at-risk youth residing in Toronto’s high priority neighborhoods to take part in an 8-month film mentorship program, held after school, once a week at Story Planet and once a week at The Pelham Park Community Hub.
Starting in October, participants learned from industry professionals about all aspects of filmmaking, including writing, directing, filming, editing, sound engineering, lighting, acting, producing, and publicizing. The Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services Safer and Vital Communities’ grant program was crucial in the development and success of this project. Eight amazing short-films were the result of this project, which will be screened this fall.
Youth Film Nights
From February to May 2014, Story Planet held a monthly Youth Film Night on site, which included a full film screening followed by a discussion/Q&A with a guest speaker who was either affiliated with or an expert of that particular film. This project was in conjunction with the Youth Filmmaker’s Project and graciously supported by Safer and Vital Communities. Our young filmmakers were able to voice their opinions about the techniques and overall impact of each film and had the unique opportunity of gaining real insight from each guest speaker.
Here at Story Planet, we have one very favourite thing. Here’s a hint: it’s right in our name! You guessed it – stories! All of our workshops incorporate an element of story creation, from writing to illustration, and from the very first thought to the binding on the book. We absolutely love watching these stories come to life and reading or watching the finished product never fails to wow us!
This year, we ran a number of workshops at Story Planet and hosted others at schools across Toronto. Here’s a recap!
This year we launched Story Club, a story building afterschool program for children in grades 3-5. Over the span of ten weeks in the fall and winter, each Story Club member wrote, revised, and bound their very own wholly unique book. This latest Story Club also saw the birth of a “How To” story guide modelled off a cookbook and fuelled by advice from the students. The guide will be available for budding authors at the ITA this fall! Our friends at CIBC Children’s Foundation offered their generous support to make this workshop a fun and inspiring success!
Our ongoing Alpha workshops transform students into authors in 2 hours! Taking place at the Story Planet headquarters, and with the help of a facilitator, a typist, and a professional artist, the workshop encourages students to collectively create a story. When the story reaches a point of crisis, the students split up individually to each write their own ending. At that point, all endings are collected and each student leaves with a book of their work to take home.
” I think the learning and creativity that happened in the Story Workshop at Story Planet will stay with the students throughout their school life.”
— Mark Bell, Vice Principal, Ryerson Community School & the Downtown Vocal Music Academy
Young Storybook Authors
Story Planet travelled to several schools in our galaxy this year to facilitate tailored, in-class programming known as Beta Workshops. Over the span of three days and 7.5 hours, a class would undergo an extended version of an Alpha Workshop where they develop a story collectively as a class and individually. At the end of the 3 days, each student would take home their own copy of the story they all had a hand in creating.
Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council, whose continuous support is the facilitates this amazing program.
“The best part was that we got to share our ideas in order to create the story.”
— Student, Kensington Community School
Authorfest was a series of 10 Alpha workshops hosted by four Toronto District School Board schools: Keele Street Junior Public School, Perth Avenue Junior Public School, Parkdale Public School, and Brock Junior Public School. These schools invited more than 800 students from schools throughout the GTA to take part. Each day, we set up shop, and worked with anywhere from 2-4 groups of students to create their very own books. A big thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for supporting this amazing event!
Every year in June, there is a distinct feeling of Last-Day-of-School-ness in the air. It’s bittersweet, but here at Story Planet, we choose to focus on the sweet by celebrating a year’s worth of incredible programming, and the publications and productions that were made right here by our up-and-coming creators!
Now that our programs have wrapped for this school year, we are looking ahead to another packed calendar of homework help, publishing projects, filmmaking, stop-motion animation, storybook creation, and all the fun, fascinating outcomes that pop up in between. Ultimately, Story Planet is a place where kids can develop their unique voices and find a platform to share those voices. Seeing a concrete publication – a final cut, collection of short stories, stop-motion animated video – is a huge moment of pride for the kids who created it, and something that all of us at Story Planet live for!
“The best thing about the process of creating this book, in addition to learning new skills, was becoming friends. It was hard not to develop friendships, because all of the characters in our stories were versions of ourselves, and when someone knows your characters, they know you. The characters were our way of dealing with life because stories are life. Stories are our way of creating ourselves and telling the world who we are and what we think. Stories give our lives meaning and colour, so that we are more than just creatures with a pulse. Stories give us feeling.”
— Infinite Fictions, by Upcoming Writers from Another Reality
Over eight months, a group of Toronto teen writers gathered to workshop their writing and compile an anthology of their original fiction. The collection came to life thanks to the generous support of the Toronto Community Foundation and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, as well as the guidance of Coach House Books.
It is now a living, breathing publication that can be purchased at the ITA and located in the stacks of the Library and Archives Canada, proving to our students that everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard!
Many of these authors are still meeting at Story Planet weekly, and have welcomed a group of new writers to the workshop. Together, we’re looking forward to developing our next publishing project with these budding authors and our wonderful partners!
Joining us all the way from the American Galaxy is Scott Ladley, a former fish-monger and 826 volunteer, who is now known to Story Planet as a videographer, ESL teacher, and all-around cool guy. Scott is a real renaissance man of this solar system, pitching in at Homework Help and investigating alien landings, not to mention doing a bit of filmmaking in between. He always arrives with a smile and a high five and loves listening to stories as much as telling them. We’re so lucky to have Scott and all his enthusiasm in our orbit! Learn a little bit more about him here:
Favourite Planet to live: I’m beginning to discover my front and back porch? I put a question mark because, having moved here this past winter, I never saw them as destinations but rather things I sprinted over in a cold shiver or gazed past with a longing desire. I grew up on the farmlands and backroads of central Pennsylvania, so my porch in Leslieville helps me slow down a bit of this big city life in Toronto.
Favourite book or the last great one you read: After I officially gave up trying to read and understand a TTC transfer pass, I read George Saunders’s collection The Tenth of December. These were great stories but as soon as I got my PR card, I knew I had to read Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda. Although it’s quite a higher degree of seriousness than what I’m used to, there’s way more violence, social clout that comes with reading it in public….and it’s a step in my quest to be as cool as CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi.
Favourite writers: Pardon my all-American lineup…what can I say? Bill Watterson (comic strips require GREAT writing), Jason Fagone, Ron Suskind, Chuck Klosterman, Michael Lewis, Frederick Exley, Jacob Tomsky, Ariel Levy, Dave Eggers.
Favourite thing to do on Earth: Gotta go with frisbee golf. It doesn’t even have to be a “course”, but chasing plastic discs through the woods with a good friend is pretty close to perfect.
Favourite Earth food: My four years in Seattle cemented coffee at the top of this list. I worked at Pike Place Fish Market 12 hours a day yelling at strangers and hawking seafood…coffee was in my bloodstream nonstop! If I ever saw a dollar amount for what I’ve spent on this absolutely spectacular liquid crutch, I may shed more tears than a 5 year old on his first day away from his mom. During my more serious ultimate frisbee playing days, I would’ve said bagels or something silly like peanut butter, cheese, or salsa (I have the palette of a teenager) but not anymore. I’m a big fan of the programs at Story Planet but I’ll shoot it to ya straight and say there’s a small side of me that’s there just for the Black Hole Brew.
Favourite moment/memory from your experience here: The group from Carleton Village that created aliens for 3D printing at Maker Kids last week is a recent highlight for sure. I suppose it’s a sign of the times but their disillusion with iPads and 3d printing was crazy to me. I could’ve watched the printers alone for three hours. But really, they didn’t allow the technology to distract their creativity which was the best part of that workshop–brainstorming their stories. Every question I had about their “Fearless, faceless Alien Striker from Mars” had a spectacular answer. An example:
What’s that for? Well that’s his belt Right, for his pants, every alien needs to hold up his pants. Smart thinking. He doesn’t need pants, the belt buckle is a secret button that makes him invisible. Right, so wouldn’t people ask him why he has a belt with no pants? He also has the special power to confuse people!
Giving students a forum to create things simply for the sake of creating is invaluable. There’s so much of life that will tell them to do things for a million and a half reasons–not many of them will be ‘for the fun of it’. Story Planet is a place for creativity, confidence, and for-the-fun-of-it learning. Kids need good people to run and be at these places. I’m grateful to have the time and go-ahead from you guys to help out and even create photographs and film for the work!
We are thrilled to announce our Big Idea cracked the Top 25 in the CST Inspired Minds Learning Project – all thanks to your votes!
Round 2 opens TODAY and runs until Monday, June 16 at NOON! We need you, and everyone you know, to vote for Story Planet’s Picture Book Kid Authors so we can receive up to $20,000 toward turning kids into published authors!
A huge thank you to all of our wonderful attendees and volunteers at this year’s Mad Libs Story Battle! And a big thanks to our wonderful host, CBC’s Tom Power, and our fantastic judges Carrieann Leung, Jessica Westhead, Evan Munday, Vikki VanSickle, and Rachelle Delaney!
The fundraiser was a real hoot and a roaring success! We are so honoured and touched to receive your ongoing support, and look forward to launching another inspiring round of programs and workshops here at Story Planet!