The Crow's Message is a cooperative immersive story that I have been telling with the Axolotls on Thursdays during Group Time.
The story began in January, when the Axolotls were surprised to find that their parents had disappeared and a mysterious message appeared that read, "The birds are not your friends." Through many twists and turns the story now has them trapped on a mysterious magical island saving a giant crow queen, her eggs, and investigating a rogue fox. The story has evolved from my own brain to include inspiration from the Axolotls, their imagination, their hunger for adventure, and their various interests.
The plot advances by the Axolotls solving a series of problems that unlock new parts of the story. The problems they encounter range from riddles, math equations to find longitude and latitude, using a bandsaw to make a key, logic puzzles and cooperative physical challenges. Inherent in the story are social-emotional situations for them to navigate and moral decisions that will help them understand each other and themselves a little better. Spoiler alert, every chapter ends with a cliffhanger.
This type of interactive storytelling brings the whole group together. Young people who don't naturally gravitate towards each other throughout the day are now involved in a shared project, forming social bonds and sharing ideas. Each person has had the ear of the group at some point during the story and because of the diverse nature of the challenges, many voices and bodies have a chance at leadership based on their different strengths and approaches to problem solving.
I have recently figured out how to include the few young people that only come on Wednesdays into the story and I started telling it with them last week. They will encounter different problems and riddles on Wednesday that provide answers and clues to help the Thursday crew get out of whatever predicament they find themselves in. They eagerly accepted the challenge and were swept up into the fantasy immediately.
This story can go on as long as we all have interest! My hope is to wrap up part two, "The Fox," by the end of the program year at NC, but this can be continued next year. I haven't even touched the squirrel Timothy's origin story yet and believe me, it's a good one...