Treasure in the forest: a sensory story

Telling the sensory story at Woodside in Bristol
The sensory story at Woodside in Bristol

‘In our forest, everyone can reach out and touch their dreams.’  Artist Jenny Langley and storyteller Marion Leeper worked along SENSE families and staff in six different areas of the country to make a multi-sensory piece of textile art, the Forest of Dreams.

The project started with a story! We used a sensory version of a traditional story to help us start thinking about our own dreams. We enjoyed it so much we repeated it at every session. The story is easy to recreate: the sensory props are mostly common everyday objects. Here is the text devised by Marion Leeper.

John Chapman lived in a cottage with an apple tree in the garden.

Smell the apple: or eat it!
Smell the apple: or eat it!

There was a hole in the roof where the rain came in. He wished he had enough money to mend it.

A water spray makes the rain.
A water spray makes the rain.

One night, he was woken by a strange voice. ‘John Chapman, wake up! Go to the Forest of Dreams.’

Drape a gauzy cloth to represent the dream.
Drape a gauzy cloth to represent the dream.

He walked and walked and walked.

Use instruments or body percussion for the sound of walking feet.
Use instruments or body percussion for the sound of walking feet.

He came to a forest of tall trees.

Explore scented pine leaves.
Explore scented pine leaves.

Something tickled him: a beautiful bird!

Tickle with a bunch of colourful feathers.
Tickle with a bunch of colourful feathers.

‘What are you doing in the Forest of Dreams?’ whistled the bird.

Use a swanee whistle for the bird’s voice.
Use a swanee whistle for the bird’s voice.

‘I’m looking for my dream,’ said John Chapman.

‘Don’t take any notice of dreams,’ said the bird. ‘I dreamt about a cottage with an apple tree in the garden and treasure buried underneath. I’m taking no notice of that!’

‘Treasure!’ shouted John Chapman. He went running, running, back to his cottage.

Pretend to dig with a real garden trowel.
Pretend to dig with a real garden trowel.

He fetched his spade and started to dig.

Open the box to find a bag of coins inside.
Open the box to find a bag of coins inside.

He found a box and opened the lid. Inside he found treasure!

‘Now I can mend my roof,’ said John Chapman. And he still had an apple for his tea.

Sensory stories are a great way to communicate with people with multiple impairments. It’s been described as ‘storytelling through emotion’. People who have no access to spoken language tune into the feelings, the drama, and the fun of the story by responding to the storyteller’s expression, tone of voice, or even the pressure of their hand and their breathing. Each line of the story comes with an a sensory prop, appealing to touch and smell as well as vision and hearing.

Why not use this story as a model for making your own sensory ‘dream’ story? Perhaps retell the story of a dream day out, one that really happened or an imaginary adventure. More advice on sensory stories from www.bagbooks.org.

You can find out more about the stories I tell at www.marionleeperstoryteller.co.uk

 

 

 

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