Fishtrap/Joseph Charter School

Mike Midlo, Fishtrap Program Manager
Shannon McNerney, Fishtrap Executive Director
Cameron Scott, Fishtrap Story Lab Coordinator

Fishtrap Story Lab has received tremendous response from students, teachers, and the community over the past two years. We’ve seen students grow from reluctant writers to prolific storytellers. This is primarily based on enthusiastic school participation, high quality instruction, and engaging tools. We are keenly aware that sustaining the program relies not only on maintaining these assets but even more importantly, building excellent relationships with school administration, parents, and the community at large. This has been a priority since Fishtrap Story Lab launched and has been the basis for creating our new partnerships. We are now partnering with sister programs throughout Wallowa County including Wallowa Resources’ WREN program, The Josephy Center for Arts and Culture, and The Alternative School among others.

Sustainability also relies on gathering evidence of student learning. In this regard, we are bursting at the seams with documentation, from the hand written work of elementary school students to hundreds of digital stories, animated films, and live action movies created by middle school kids. In many cases, we have been able to observe how an individual student’s work improves and matures as they continue to create new pieces with Fishtrap Story Lab. Further more, testimonials from students, teachers, and parents reveal how Fishtrap Story Lab is creating a positive and fruitful environment for student creativity and learning which carries over into all levels of their education.

See the FISHTRAP STORY LAB FACEBOOK PAGE for the latest student work and projects from our special Halloween workshop.fslpresentsoct22poster-01

Our greatest challenges in sustaining and growing Fishtrap Story Lab are in the areas of, community support, and keeping high quality instructors. The key here is how to leverage our strengths as evidence of this program’s positive impact. In regards to funding, we are already working with the schools and community to show how Fishtrap Story Lab is a high quality educational resource for their students. Fishtrap staff and board members have presented at School Board meetings, we have provided scholarships to students to attend weeklong Story Lab workshops at Summer Fishtrap, and our annual student showcases further add testimonials to the program. The financial challenges are paramount, as we would like to maintain and hire more Story Lab teachers as well as provide a central Story Lab hub as a resource for kids during and outside of school hours. With that, we are seeking out additional foundation support in addition to the OCF Studio to Schools Initiative.

The next challenge in regards to sustainability has to do with instructors. Today, Fishtrap Story Lab’s classroom instruction rests primarily on one individual. If we loose this talented instructor, the program will take a loss. Bringing in visiting instructors from other areas is an attractive idea but also has its own hurdles as familiarity and building a positive reputation over time are vital to school administration and classroom teachers. With that, we are aggressively working to develop a pool of local instructors who offer a diverse level of experience and skills. This is also a challenge as we are a rural community and most high quality creative writing and multimedia teachers are already employed full time by the school districts. That said, a hand full of educators have approached us, asking if they can be involved in Fishtrap Story Lab. We feel confident that the program’s reputation and success will evolve and develop as Fishtrap Story Lab continues to bridge the ancient art of storytelling with 21st century technology.