—by Kate Cicchelli and Meg Fitzgerald

Last Friday, we hosted our 3rd Annual Winter Twilight event, and evening of reading and family gathering inspired by Italy’s Reggio Narra, a citywide event dedicated to the concept of narrative.  Throughout the town of Reggio Emilia, for one day a year, parents, teachers, civic leaders, community members, open their houses, their businesses, their churches, schools and theaters, to celebrate storytelling.  At Bennett Day, we opened our doors in a similar way, just within a school in the heart of downtown Chicago.  During the Winter Twilight, we dedicate time to continuity of community by coming together through stories.

As one school, with two campuses continuity of experiences is incredibly important to us. At Bennett Day School we do that through experiences, not only in the classroom, but together as a community to instill a desire for lifelong learning. Last Friday, our Bennett Day parents, children, and faculty to joined together and focused around a central experience: storytelling.

The power of a narrative is strong. Young children learn their first memories through narratives. Research tells us that those memories are most likely not actual memories but rather memories conceived first as stories from a loved one, told so often to the child that the experience becomes truly their own. Telling someone a story transfers experiences directly to their brain. They feel what you the narrator is feeling. They empathize with the character. When telling a story to a group, the wishes and desires of the character become the desires of the audience. As conflicts arise, we wait in anticipation for resolution. When a joyful moment occurs for a character, we experience joy together. Engaging in stories brings people together in good for the soul types of ways.

Friday night, our Family Association transformed the first floor of our Flagship campus into magical winter wonderland, complete with candlelight. There were family readers in each of our Kindergarten classrooms and winter activities guided by faculty throughout. Our indoor play space was also transformed into a pizza parlor where many of our families enjoyed dinner together.

Three years ago, the Winter Twilight was an inspired idea, and now it serves as a powerful representation of who we are as a school.  For two magical candlelit hours, we open our hearts and school home to share stories, play, nibble, and connect.  We can think of no better way to spend an evening as 2016 draws to an end.