Hayden Valley Elementary School second-grader Whittney Lighthizer takes instruction from Bonnie Phipps, an artist in residence teaching storytelling this week. Phipps was working with a group of students who were practicing for a performance at 6:30 p.m. today in the Hayden High School auditorium.

Photo by Jack Weinstein

Hayden Valley Elementary School second-grader Whittney Lighthizer takes instruction from Bonnie Phipps, an artist in residence teaching storytelling this week. Phipps was working with a group of students who were practicing for a performance at 6:30 p.m. today in the Hayden High School auditorium.

Hayden elementary students to perform stories, play, songs tonight

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What: Hayden Valley Elementary School storytelling performance

When: 6:30 p.m. today

Where: Hayden High School auditorium

— Several budding stars will take to the stage tonight in Hayden.

Eight Hayden Valley Ele­mentary School second- through fifth-grade students will tell stories, either solo or with a partner, at 6:30 p.m. today during an all-school performance in the Hayden High School auditorium.

Other second- through fifth-graders not telling stories will take part in a performance with their classes. Kindergartners will act in a short play, and first-graders will sing a song.

The students this week have been working with artist in residence Bonnie Phipps. Phipps, of Boulder, has taught storytelling and folk music and performed for students for more than 20 years.

“This is put together really fast, and they’ve really come through with flying colors,” she said. “They’ve done well.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Phipps worked with the master storytellers, the eight second- through fifth-graders she chose to represent their grades during the performance. She taught them storytelling techniques including facial expressions, gestures and inflection to help convey different characters and scenes.

Second-grader Whittney Lighthizer performed her story for the first time after receiving it Tuesday. It was about a couple of mice who come face to face with a cat and are rescued by their mother, who barks like a dog. Phipps stopped Whittney several times to work with her voices and expressions to differentiate characters in her story.

After school, Whittney said it was hard to think about the story while she was telling it. But she said she liked telling stories.

“They’re fun,” she said. “You get to talk in front of everybody. At the end, everybody claps, and I feel good about it.”

Phipps encouraged the students to learn the story and tell it in their own way using the techniques she taught them. She said it was about more than memorization.

“Then, they really own the story,” she said. “They know the events of the story and portray it in their own words.”

Phipps’ visit was paid for by three grants, said Jan Owen, who teaches Title I, a federally funded reading and writing program at the elementary school. Owen said local grants from the Legacy Education Foundation and Yampa Valley Electric Association’s Caring Consumers program provided nearly all the funding.

Owen, who was familiar with Phipps’ work from her teaching days in Denver, said she invited Phipps to Hayden to provide the students the opportunity to experience the art of storytelling.

Fifth-grader Cerra Skufca, another master storyteller, cited another benefit of being able to tell stories. She said it’s good for the younger students because it helps them get comfortable speaking in public.

For Cerra, who said storytelling is one of her favorite things, there’s another reason she likes speaking in front of groups.

“I love being the center of attention,” she said.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 871-4203 or e-mail jweinstein@steamboatpilot.com

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