Rhoda is a Wolf Clan member of the Tahltan Nation. She was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon. Her love for creating has been a lifelong passion inherited from her mother and grandmother and from the many ladies who were associated with Yukon Native Products. As an Artist she beads, sews First Nation regalia, tells First Nation stories, paints and writes. Rhoda applies her expertise to developing First Nation art-based curriculum, workshops and programs and to coordinating the Arts in Education -Yukon program; a program that hires artists to create art-based resources that teachers use to deliver core curricular requirements. Rhoda is a passionate promoter of art, specifically First Nation art, culture and artists. Her studio is in Atlin, B.C
Rhoda Merkel's First Peoples Storytelling Art Program is something all school learning communities should be given the opportunity to experience. She arrived at our school with two huge suitcases, one full of interactive storytelling magic, and the other with everything needed to give each student a canvas to showcase their learning. Rhoda had thought of everything! The amazing part of the whole thing was that the program was tailor made to meet the needs of our school. Rhoda included me, the Teacher-Librarian, in choosing the stories to be shared and the scheduling that ensured every student a chance to the experience. She has put her time, her heart, and her-self into her program. The pre-planning that Rhoda did gave each teacher a complete lesson plan outlining what Aboriginal story she would be sharing, the art activity that would follow, materials she would supply and what was to be organized at the school, and the core curricular competencies that could be tied to the lesson. She also included possible extensions that teachers could use after she was gone to enhance the students' learning back in the classroom. As classes started to rotate through the library it became very evident that Rhoda is a natural with children and a pure storytelling genius. She was successful in captivating and engaging student from grades k-6. Some stories she told herself and others she used student volunteers to help tell the story with her. Her choice of props and simple costumes brought the stories to life and allowed the student to "see" the stories. I believe that it was due to seeing the story that they were able to easily express the stories in their own art. After each story was told, students were asked to illustrate the story on canvas using water colors. The success came from the ownership each student had for their art piece. All of the finished work better than I could have imagined. They truly cared and acted with intention. Tera Merkel Highlands Elementary School - District #5
Storytelling is a powerful way to convey abstract concepts indirectly while awakening the imagination. The program is designed to link to B.C. Curriculum's Big Ideas, specifically to the inclusion of First Nation's ways of doing and knowing. It engages the whole body, is fun - which was the first peoples' way to teach. The First Peoples Stories -- Storytelling Program is designed to introduce, progressively starting in Kindergarten up to Grade 9, the power of stories and how they shape our lives. The stories do not have to be delivered according to Grade. The whole school can be programmed to participate. The stories told are native to the Yukon and Canada. All the Stories: -Create memorable art project students will treasure for life. -Develop fine art skills, creative thinking competencies, and self awareness. -Can be illustrated into a book or a storytelling blanket or art projects listed -Are designed to be used cross-curricular. -Are ready to be dramatized to produce a storytelling festival (script, costumes, props, backdrop) Each session follows the same 4-Hour format: Hour 1: Telling the story interactively -- designing the art project Hour 2 and 3: Creating the art project Hour 4: Completing the art project and retelling the story using fun methods Preparation time: 3 Hours The supply cost varies based on the project chosen and are paid by schools. Stories include: How Butterflies Came to Be, Raven's Light, Salmon Boy/Girl, Turtle Island, Four Directions, How Summer Came to Be, How Salmon Came to Be, Your Totem Story, Paint Like Ted (Harrison). A full description of the program that includes the art projects linked to each story is available.