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Quantitative Studies

The Storytelling Project: Teaching about Racism and Tolerance through Storytelling and the Arts

by Dr. Lee Anne Bell

A workshop on this project was presented at NCORE: the annual National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education on May 31, 2007

Keywords: secondary school, teacher education, racism, tolerance


The Storytelling Project (STP) links research to practice through the development of a curriculum to teach about race, racism, and social justice using storytelling and the arts. Barnard College was awarded a one-year grant of $100,000 from The Third Millennium Foundation to support the first year of a two-year collaboration with the International Center for Tolerance Education (ICTE). STP involves an interdisciplinary creative team of artists, public school teachers, university faculty and Barnard students.

During 2004-2005, the STP Creative Team developed curricula about race, racism and social justice for upper elementary, middle and high school levels. As a model program, STP is designed to be flexible: the program can be incorporated into existing school curricula such as English/Language Arts and Social Studies as well as in targeted after-school programs.

The Storytelling Project received a second grant of $100,000 from the Third Millennium Foundation. An innovative program to help high school students understand and deal effectively with racial issues through stories and storytelling was implemented in six classrooms at three schools in Fall 2005.

Bell planned an intensive one-week summer institute to introduce the Storytelling Project curriculum and activities to teachers. During the 2005-2006 school year, members of the team, including Barnard student interns, monitored the progress of the storytelling curriculum by observing classes, holding focus groups with students, and eliciting teachers' opinions. This research was used to revise the curriculum so that it may be expanded and implemented more widely in coming years.

This model is carefully grounded in a critical theory of racism and a pedagogy of social justice that have been tested by the creative team and high school students who acted as consultants.

Lee Anne Bell
Professor and The Barbara Silver Horowitz Director of Education
335A Milbank Hall, Barnard College, Columbia University
3009 Broadway, New York, NY 10027-6598
(212) 854-9237

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