Out of Time
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Why a Storytelling Framework for Learning?

"People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive . . . so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive." - Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Understanding How Myth Builds Meaning

Joseph Campbell made a lifelong study of the stories we tell ourselves, the myths and narratives that have attempted to explain our place in the world since the dawn of humanity. In The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers asks Joseph Campbell, "So we tell stories to try to come to terms with the world, to harmonize our lives with reality?"

Campbell's epic reply meanders from suffering to birth to death, and the stories that have arisen throughout many cultures over generations. "Myths," Campbell says, "are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life."

Moyers: "You changed the definition of a myth from the search for meaning to the experience of meaning."

Campbell: "The experience of life."

So the story about how mean your sister is being, how cool your boyfriend is, how your teacher hates you . . . all these stories and the way we reveal them to ourselves and others says something important about the way we experience the world around us.

Stories—our own and others—are clues to how we experience life.

Stories, then, tap into a deep universal need for understanding and making sense of our place in the world. Research is uncovering the biologically driven mechanisms of building self-identification and meaning through story by measuring brain response and variations in memory to fact-based learning vs. story-based learning. Stories engage the brain in multiple ways that are later filed into memory, enhancing learning retention in ways that memorizing, say, a list of facts does not. Stories can also increase empathy, as Paul Zak's research has shown.


Empathy, Neurochemistry and the Dramatic Arc at The Future of Storytelling 2012 Paul Zak, Ph.D.

Nowhere is the impulse toward identity-building stronger than among adolescents, for whom creating a sense identity outside the family and within their peer society is now seen to be a biological—and perhaps even evolutionary—imperative.

Daniel Siegel, the author of Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, writes, "The many revolutionary ways of interpreting and shaping our world—in music and art and in the recent creation of our digital age—emerge during the emotionally vibrant, socially connected, novelty-seeking adolescent period. Adolescence is a golden age for innovation because it is during this time of growth and change that the brain's developmental shifts . . . encourage creative thought and drive adolescents to explore the world in new ways."

And though teens may not want teaching to be mixed in with their entertainment, they do want learning to be entertaining.

Out of Time celebrates this flowering of brain growth and creativity and, when joined with the purpose of storytelling as a window on how we experience life, provides the perfect platform to combine learning, exploration and revelation.