Thomas Doty – Storyteller

News: Rock Writing Classes


Adrianna Newman, 9, works on a rock writing project during her fourth-grade class at Walker Elementary School Monday.

Found in translation
Students use petroglyphs to tell each other stories

By Heidi Monjure
Ashland Daily Tidings

Tom Doty, author of "Doty and Coyote" books and Walker Elementary School's artist in residence, is engaging fourth- and fifth-graders in all aspects of storytelling, from being listeners to becoming tellers.

"Storytelling is not only an ancient art, but also a living one," says Doty.

Doty's rich ancestral stories have been helping students in Dylana Garfas-Knowles' classroom at Walker learn how to tell their own life stories. Following a schoolwide assembly, her 22 fourth-grade storytellers echoed Doty's story, adding hand gestures and body movements. Then they translated the story into traditional Native American symbols to produce rock writing.

"I like how he (Doty) explains his thinking," says student Devie Jackson.

"It is super fun doing a big project," adds classmate Sophie Peters.

Students quickly began creating their stories of good and bad journeys of healing, peace/war and hunting/fishing using the newly learned symbols. They combined some symbols to create new meaning. A sun and moon side by side with many tally marks below, for example, conveyed the passage of many days and nights.

The challenge on this day: Can others read your rock writing? One by one, students held up their posters and then called on peers to read it. Success! With giggles and sighs, the students translated the rock writings.

"I have an abiding passion for stories," Doty says. "As a storyteller, I have learned to listen. I have discovered that each word, each breath of silence, each subtle gesture, every gaze into the soul of every story, is sacred."