Newcastle Writers Festival launched Story Hunter, a new creative writing program for Hunter region primary school students, on Thursday, 17 November, at Mayfield West Demonstration School. Story Hunter is a five-week program led by eight local writers who have been trained in partnership with Story Factory, a not-for-profit organisation that has been supporting young storytellers for a decade in Sydney’s western suburbs. The program is run in schools.
The aim of Story Hunter is to “explore big ideas with young writers” by supporting literacy, fostering greater enjoyment of literature, and enabling students to express themselves in a creative way. The program is aligned with the curriculum and is targeted at students in years five and six. By the end of the program, students will have completed three chapters of their own book. Illustrations are also encouraged and guest artists will be included in the program.
Newcastle Writers Festival director Rosemarie Milsom said Story Hunter was an extension of the organisation’s traditional annual two-day Schools Program held in Newcastle and Cessnock and would provide meaningful impact in the wake of Covid-19 school closures. “A survey by the National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds showed that 41% of children aged nine to 17 reported that the pandemic had a negative impact on their wellbeing, and around one in five children said they were feeling more down, scared or worried than they used to,” said Milsom.
“Many children also reported that they had struggled with remote learning due to boredom, lack of learning support, lack of structure, and poor focus. Play and creative expression can help, and we want to work with primary students to develop their storytelling skills in a fun, engaging way. They are guided by expert storytellers.”
Students write stories inspired by a central theme and work together to edit each other’s work. A pilot program, Marvellous Birds, is currently underway in schools throughout the region including Port Stephens, Newcastle, and Maitland. The five-week program can be adapted to a school’s needs if timing is an issue. Bookings for 2023 are now open.
Story Hunter is funded by the Australian Government, Port Waratah Coal Services, Catfish Foundation and Catchfire Press.More info