Monday, 5 January 2015

Learning Through Story

It has been well documented in psychological journals and other scientific studies that the human brain organizes knowledge by storytelling. With each new life lesson, experience, and event, a memory is created and when you recall that memory it is stored and retold as a story.

The stories of your past evolve and change as you grow and transform as a person. The facts stay the same but which memories/stories one chooses to tell or how one tells them reflects a persons’ current thinking or state of being and creates a narrative for one's life. For example if someone is an engineer and suddenly decides to become a teacher they may recall a past story about their favourite teacher to validate their life decision. The memory was always with them but now it becomes a central story in the shaping of a new life path.  

Studies have also shown that storytelling is also one of the best ways to teach lessons and to communicate to other people. In all cultures stories have been used to pass down knowledge and life lessons especially in First Nation communities where storytelling remains and continues to be an integral part of their culture.

For the Dene people storytelling serves many purposes from teaching life lessons, sharing their strong and rich history, to passing on practical skills. Some stories are as old as time and others are as new as the moment. Most of these stories are not written down but passed orally a tradition that has lasted for thousands of years. For the Dene storytelling builds and bonds people and family members from different generations together. It is one of the many reasons why Elders are so highly respected. In Dene culture the Elders are the archives of the past and a bridge to the present. They have experienced and learned many life lessons making them libraries of stories which they pass along to future generations.

Science is now proving these time honoured techniques of knowledge sharing. Research is verifying what many cultures like the Dene have known for thousands of years, that the human brain remembers best when knowledge is shared not as facts but as stories.

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