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31 October 2023

The power of storytelling: Edinburgh College helps connect students across Europe through Story Valley project

Over the last three years, Edinburgh College has worked with partners from across Scotland, England and Europe to connect students from diverse cultures and backgrounds using different forms of creative storytelling that improve literacy, oral history, creativity, integration and collaboration.

The Story Valley project, which began in November 2020 and ended in August 2023, saw the international partnership use artforms like choreography and music to highlight the power of storytelling as a path to knowledge, and encourage the increased use of this underutilised skill in education.

By providing a framework that supported teachers to build storytelling into their everyday practice, the project saw around 100 students from Edinburgh College get involved in the curriculum, working alongside institutions in three UNESCO Cities of Literature: Nottingham, England; Leeuwarden, The Netherlands; and Ljubljana, Slovenia, as well as local partners including the City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Storytelling Centre.

This broad cultural engagement then allowed for the preservation and enrichment of cultural heritage as it provided an inclusive environment for students from all walks of life to share their stories and be proud of who they are and where they come from.

Edinburgh College students who took part in the project said: “Before the project, I’ve never really felt connected to Scotland at all, but since the majority of my class is Scottish, them sharing their stories helped me understand more. It definitely linked me to the group more; I felt like I belonged.”

“It definitely woke up a kind of vulnerability in me that I didn't know I had because I buried it deep down inside. It made me appreciate my culture and my background, which I tried to hide desperately for previous two years, by for example, trying to change my accent to sound less foreign. Story Valley made me think of me and of all my classmates as unique amazing people and I'm really grateful for it.”

To achieve this result, representatives from Edinburgh College attended monthly meetings with partner organisations to track their shared progress and update one another on their own individual projects.

Some of the key outcomes from the final meeting that took place at the end of August include: the finalisation of the website which hosts all the project’s learning materials; the agreement to take part in another collaborative project; and the decision that this future project will be funded by Erasmus+, with Edinburgh College as an associate partner alongside Learning Hub Friesland and Firda, City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh Science Festival.

Andy Duncan, Centre Administrator for Edinburgh College Creative Industries, said: “The project has been a great success, with hundreds of students across the College taking part in the activities and events over the course of the three years. During that time, we have welcomed guests to Edinburgh and our staff and students have travelled to both Holland and Slovenia collaborating with our counterparts from different cultures and sharing stories about our lives, which has not only enhanced our learning experience, but our outlook on the world as well.

“Story Valley has had a lasting impact on our students and its legacy will continue for years to come as schools, colleges and other institutions across Europe continue to benefit from the learning resources and materials created as part of this project.”

With this impact, as well as plans to expand the project even further across the globe, the Story Valley project was recently shortlisted in the Inclusive College category at this year’s CDN College Awards, which will take place on Thursday 30 November in Glasgow.