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Happily Ever Resilient: Adventures in Learning with Dr. Stephanie Goloway

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

Adventures in Learning Podcast -- Season 1, Episode 7

Host: Dr. Diane Jackson Schnoor; Special Guest: Dr. Stephanie Goloway

[00:00] Dr Diane: Once upon a time, we invited an author, teacher, professor, and all around bright spirit to the Adventures in Learning podcast. Dr. Stephanie Goloway is a lifelong educator and advocate for play, storytelling, and the imagination. She has taught preschool, elementary school, special education, and college, as well as been a children's librarian and professional storyteller. Her fascination with the thinking learning process and the way it is supported by make believe story and creative exploration is the thread that weaves together her diverse experiences. She holds a doctorate in early childhood from Walden University, where her research focused on the protective factors of resilience for children living with trauma and family substance use disorders and how fairy tales and storytelling aligned with these protective factors. She's a professor emeritus of education at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And she's the author of Happily Ever Resilient: Using Fairy Tales to Nurture Children Through Adversity. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Stephanie Goloway to the Adventures in Learning podcast.

*Disclosure: I am an affiliate of and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Sometimes dinner and a night exploring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland leads to a friendship based on similar interests. I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Stephanie Goloway at the NAEYC Professional Leadership Institute, where we were both presenting this summer. As we explored the exhibits at the museum, we also discovered that we share a love of fairy tales and folk literature, of laughter and play, and of connecting early childhood education and playful learning. Even more intriguing, I discovered that Stephanie had written a book about incorporating the fairy and folk tales I love using as a platform for STEM/STEAM learning and wrapping them into a package for teaching resilience. So I am thrilled to welcome her to the Adventures in Learning podcast and blog to share her wisdom with you. What follows is a transcript of our conversation, as it was so full and rich I wanted you to be able to read it in its entirety. Enjoy!

Dr Diane: Wonder Curiosity Connection. Where will your adventures take you? I'm Dr. Diane, and thank you for joining me on today's episode of Adventures in Learning. So welcome to Adventures in Learning. I'm Dr. Diane, and I first met Stephanie at a national conference where we were both presenting, and I was so captivated by her experiences and had so much fun at dinner learning about her and about her own Adventures in Learning that I wanted to share them with you today. So without further ado, let's welcome Dr. Stephanie Goloway to the podcast. So, Stephanie, you've got a great book out from Red Leaf Press called Happily Ever Resilient: Using Fairy Tales to Nurture Children Through Adversity. I loved this book when I read it, and I felt like it really dovetails with the kind of work that I'm doing with STEAM learning and fairy tales. And so I found myself wondering why fairy tales is a vehicle for resilience. What prompted that for you?

Why use fairy tales as a vehicle for resilience?

[02:09] Dr Stephanie: Well, I mean, fairy tales are about the weak, the powerless. Often children are the youngest, the smallest, overcoming adversity and conquering the dragon or the witch or whoever it is. So I think I've always, always loved fairy tales and have written fairy tales, done work with fairy tales with kids of all ages my whole life. And when I was looking into resilience as a protective factor for children who have been experienced trauma and specifically living with substance use disorders, I was trying to figure out a way into my doctoral research that would keep me interested and engaged, and I suddenly thought, wait a minute, fairy tales.

There was a book by Dr. Ann Masten called Ordinary Magic on resilience. I mean, she basically wrote the book on resilience. And when I saw Ordinary Magic and one of her first quotes was about fairy tales, I was like, Whoa, this looks like a match for it. And the more I researched fairy tales and looked specifically at multicultural fairy tales — my research had 24 different cultures all over the world, every continent, and nine basic stories, nine variants of very well known fairy tales — I realized that they weren't just overall stories about resilience, but that they actually were wonderful models of the specific protective factors for resilience that Dr. Masten and Harvard Center on the Developing Child had identified as important for kids. So I thought, well, all right. They're already in most of the standards that teachers need to share folk and fairy tales with children as part of literacy. And since I think resilience should be the cornerstone of all teaching, all curriculum, it just seemed like it was a natural match to share, to learn more about could they actually be used in a classroom to promote resilience as well as literacy?

Story Magic, Caring Magic, Making Magic, and Superhero Magic -- Connecting Fairy Tales and Learning Activities to Build Resilience

[04:25] Dr Diane: Can you give us an example of some of the types of activities and supports that you provide in your book that surround fairy tales to build resilience?

[04:33] Dr Stephanie: So each chapter of the book, each fairy tale, is divided into different kinds of magic. So there's Story Magic, and that involves a lot of storytelling and story acting that the children do. And a big part of that is sharing multiple different variants of fairy tales of the same fairy tale with children. As a classroom teacher, I've always been very much committed to helping kids not just have a different book every day, but helping them to dive deeply into stories, which means repetition. And one way of doing that and really stretching out children's connection with a specific story that resonates with them is to share it in lots of different versions. And fairy tales have Cinderella — there are over a thousand — so you could go on for years and just do Cinderella. So their story magic helps teachers figure out how to help kids be inspired not only to understand the story more deeply and reflect on their own resilience, but also to do their own creative storytelling, and as they get older, writing.

Caring Magic, which is attachment and relationships, is a protective factor for resilience. And lots of times when we think of what kinds of activities teachers do to establish relationships with children, they're all these kind of like, cutesy little activities about, I'm your friend, you're my friend, blah, blah, blah, blah. And those are great, but that's not really what I've ever seen children get really thrilled about it. So what I tried to do was take things like art and, for example, with Caring Magic co-creating a classroom mural of the three billy goats after you've read it, a number of different versions of it. I loved as a teacher doing group murals because we tend to think of art as an individual little activity. The kids go home and stick it on their refrigerator. And I found that when children work together to create something that was displayed in the classroom that was big and had lots of different parts to it, there was something magic that happened with the kids and their friendships. If you have four or five kids all down, like, painting a mural together, they have to watch out for each other. They have to pay attention and decenter, and they're curious about what each other is doing. And instead of saying, oh, I'm going to copy that on my own picture, it's like, oh, I like the way you were taking that green sponge and the way your grass looks different than my grass looks on this billy goat's hill. So let me try that too. And so thinking about relationships both between the adults in the room and the children, but also between the children, would be an example of some of the activities for caring magic, for initiative and executive functions.

The protective factors, I kind of split it into playing magic and doing magic, Making Magic, rather. And so playing magic would be what you do often in types of materials that you offer children to do things. So, for example, with Thumbellina and Tom Thumb, putting out a variety of loose parts and setting up the environment so that children could create their own tiny, small worlds for characters. I've always found kids love the little tiny things, that little tiny people and imagining their worlds. And by offering them the opportunity to create a small world on their own, you're really tapping into their problem solving, their creative thinking, and their connection with the story and their imaginations.

But one of my favorite activities actually had to do with Hansel and Gretel. And again, it ties into initiative and especially executive functions, the idea of being able to see possibilities and to use your work in memory and going through processes. And it was to establish a candy lab where the children, the scenario is, okay, the witch had all this candy that she used to decorate the house. It came from somewhere. So you're part of a lab that is going to be examining her candy and getting a bunch of penny candies and eyedroppers and magnifying glasses and scales and all of the good stuff that we often have in early childhood classrooms that sometimes gets set to the side. And then they go through the whole process of how the kids are examining the candy. And why do Tootsie Rolls hold their shape in water? And why do the Pop rockets not hold their shape and they dissolve? And which ones bubble and which ones sink and which ones float? And what happens if I do this? And which ones can I cut apart with a little plastic knife and just give them the opportunity to really explore candy in a completely different way than they ever have.? And, I mean, I have COVID precautions built in, they each have their own little tiny candy lab, in their own space to examine it, but the conversations between them, it's hoped that the teacher will start recording them either through taking pictures or recording, actually, children's quotes. And after they've explored everything, if there's no allergies and blah, blah, blah, then maybe the kids can even taste a little bit of candy and then record the difference in the taste before and after. It's science of course.

[10:26] Dr Diane: I have to say, your playing magic is very much what I do in terms of helping teachers build STEM and STEAM connections in the early childhood classroom.

"To me, play is good. Real play is STEM and STEAM. And it all goes back to the stories that engage children. And children are curious. They do wonder all the time, and we need to sometimes just get out of their way. What I found as a classroom teacher --STEM and STEAM were not concepts when I was working with children as nice and neatly labeled as such. But I always did it because you can't work with children in an authentic way without encouraging scientific and mathematical and artistic thinking. I don't know how you do that." --Dr. Stephanie [10:35]

[11:27] Dr Diane: It's creativity. It's wonder, and it's hands on. So we have story magic, caring magic, playing magic. And then you said the last one was making magic.

[11:37] Dr Stephanie: Well, making magic and playing magic are part of doing magic.

[11:41] Dr Diane: So they go together.

[11:43] Dr Stephanie: So the last kind of magic is Superpower Magic, which is self regulation. And we worked for a really long time trying to figure out a better name for it. But honestly, at the end of the day, self regulation for young children is a superpower that they are still developing. And when they have it, they can do almost anything, and when they don't, they have problems. So what I've discovered about self regulation and super power magic is that a lot of the things that we used to do with children all the time in early childhood and in elementary school, which we don't anymore, actually develop self regulation skills. Basic games like Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light and Mother, May I? All of those were natural ways to develop self regulation.

So in my book, I pull on a lot of those classic games and kind of tweak them. For example, with Jack and the Beanstalk, I have a magic lyre freeze dance. So you find lyre or harp music on YouTube or wherever you want to get it. You play it for the children, so they're a little familiar with it. Then you put it on, and the deal is that when the music stops, they have to freeze because that means that the giant has woken up. And so they have to dance quietly because they don't want to wake the giant, but then freeze because the giant wakes up when the lyre stops. And simple little things, it can be transition activity. It could be almost anything that you would want it to be, but it develops that sense of having to really pay attention and listen and stop your body from doing what it's doing on a dime, pretty much on the top of the music. So simple little things like that. But I really believe that the more children are engaged with a story, the more you can work with their imaginations, which for children are their most developmentally exciting thing that's happening with young children. It's all the way up to teenagers. It kind of works with all of them. Everybody likes to engage with their imaginations.

But the more we can work with children's natural desire to imagine, the more success we are going to have with all kinds of learning, I believe. -- Dr. Stephanie Goloway

Happily Ever Resilient: How do we use fairy tales to help foster resiliency?

[14:03] Dr Diane: And so when we put all of these things together and we wrap them around in the framework of a fairy tale, how do we get to that end outcome of resiliency, the happily ever resilient?

[14:15] Dr Stephanie: Well, I think that it’s, Masten talked about the ordinary magic, which are these protective factors of relationship and initiative, executive functions and self regulation. And the idea is that children need it, through they don't have to be wrapped in a fairy tale. She talked about just what normal, healthy families and communities do to support children develop resilience. And my goal is to help give teachers, I almost want to say an excuse, a framework, but we were not great about social and emotional, but prioritizing social and emotional development, which is really the same thing as resilience when you get right down to it.

And teachers often feel so pressured to focus on the STEM, to focus on literacy, to focus on all of those things that are also important that they just forget about the fact that if children don't have resilience, they're not going to bounce back and they're not going to be successful learners anyway. So to me, the wrapping it all in fairy tales and then connecting it with literacy and with STEM and with STEAM and with the things that they naturally have to do with children offers them a framework to be able to say, okay, I'm doing both. That's why I renamed, instead of saying, well, this is an art activity. It's like, okay, this is a caring activity. But it's also tapping into initiative and executive functions and trying to help them really internalize that idea of here are four big protective factors that we need to focus on for resilience. And the more children are immersed in an environment, whether it's at home or in school or in childcare on the playground or whatever, immersed in those protective factors and they're nurtured, the greater the chance that a child, even the child who has experienced toxic stress and trauma, will have being able to be resilient. And that's what the research has told us.

One of the things I really like about the way you structured your book is you provide the research upfront so that educators do get a small mini course in terms of understanding why it's important to do these things. But then you break it up in a way that I, as a teacher, would be able to use it in my classroom and connect it to things that I might already be doing. But it ties into all of the things that you want to see in an early childhood classroom. So you've got the literacy, you've got the numeracy, you've got the scientific inquiry, you've got the gross motor and the fine motor, but it's all wrapped, as you said, in magic and in the way of building resilience as well, in a very intentional way. [16:29] Dr Diane Jackson Schnoor

[17:08] Dr Stephanie: Thank you. That makes me really happy that you read the book in that way. That was certainly my intention, because I also have found from teaching adults for many years that people don't want to hear about research and they don't want to hear about theory. And as someone who comes from a tradition where research and theory is pretty important, it really does, especially the neuroscience, really does give us great insights into tools we can use. I thought it was very important to put that into the book, but to try to explain it in a way that.. I taught community college students, and I wanted my 18 year old right out of high school to understand it just as well as somebody who was coming back as a 50 year old who had never had a GED. And I wanted to make it also playful because I think one of the things that I experienced is when we're dealing with trauma and toxic stress and all the sad stuff, we look at it and we kind of plop it onto what we need to do with kids. And the strategies we use with children are often just as sad and heavy. And that's not who kids are, right? We're not going to reach them that way.

[18:29] Dr Diane: Well, let's take a break, and when we come back, we're going to go back to the beginning and your once upon a time.

[18:39] Sponsor Ad: Beyond Ever After Enter DRDIANEPODCAST10 and get $10 off the price of a Beyond Ever After video experience (complete with PDF of book ideas and activity/STEAM challenge suggestions).

[19:29] Dr Diane: Welcome back. We're talking to Dr. Stephanie Goloway about her book Happily Ever Resilient: Using Fairy Tales to Nurture Children Through Adversity. Stephanie, I'd like to go back to your once upon a time and ask what did you want to be when you were a child and why?

What early books and experiences influenced Dr. Stephanie's once upon a time and ever after adventures?

[19:49] Dr Stephanie: I wanted to be a teacher. Like, from the time since before I started school, I wanted to be a teacher. How I knew what a teacher was, I have no idea. But that was always from the time I remember being three or four and my mother confirms this, and all I ever wanted to do was be a teacher. I did go through a period of time in elementary school where I thought maybe an archaeologist would be really cool, and off and on writer popped in there as I discovered my own love of fantasy and stories. But it all kind of always ended up wrapping back around to teacher until I got to college and I took one education class. I didn't even take the class. I met the education department and I was like, oh, I don't want to do this just randomly, like, no, okay, going to be a psych major, not interested in teaching anymore. And then all I ever did was want to be a teacher. I taught in childcare, got out of school, I wanted to teach, so I actually didn't get certified to teach until after I got my master's degree. I really did everything completely backwards. But yeah, I knew when I was about three that I wanted to be a teacher. And I look at everything that I've done as somehow teaching related, if not actually teaching.

[21:19] Dr Diane: Well, we're going to come back to that in a moment because I do think that our Adventures in Learning aren't always a straight line, and I think you've got an interesting story to share. But before we get to that, as long as we're back in your childhood, did you have a favorite book when you were a child?

21:35] Dr Stephanie: That's the hardest question that anybody has ever asked any time in my life, but I have thought about it quite a bit. And my family lived in Sweden when I was in kindergarten in first grade. And there was a Finnish author named Tove Jansson who wrote the Moomin books. And as a young child, I remember we had a book called Moomin, Mimble, and Little My by Tove Jansson. She wrote some picture books as well. And Who Will Comfort Toffle? and those were two books that just were my favorite books as a child. They were adventuresome, and they had very strong female characters in them, and they were about kindness and they were funny and they were in rhyme. And my memory is that you went through the whole ,this was back in the book was published, I guess, in the 50s, but it had holes that you would go through to the next page. And they were probably my all time favorite picture books and kind of still are. I also really loved all fairy tales. I still have a copy of Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales that my mother read to me. I remember sitting and hearing the stories and just being entranced with them. As I got older, I went into a Nancy Drew, heavy duty Nancy Drew stage, and Harriet the Spy, again, real strong curious females who solved mysteries and just went after it. I didn't kind of loop back into fantasy again until later teens in adulthood, and I realized that fairy tales are kind of my jam, but that's good.

*Disclosure: I am an affiliate of and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

[23:32] Dr Diane: So you referenced that you had wanted to be a teacher, and then you got to college, and you sort of made a hard right turn to psychology. So describe your adventures in learning. Like, what do you currently do? I know you're a published author and you're training teachers, but how did you get there, and how did your experiences sort of shape where you are today?

[23:53] Dr Stephanie: Well, I think I just like to say I followed my feet or my heart. I got out of college, I worked with childcare, and I loved it. I never wanted to work with a child over the age of four I decided my entire life, no interest in public school teaching, none of that. And then I was working with very young children, and I ended up becoming familiar with a residential treatment facility for teenagers, adjudicated teens in my area. And I've been very curious about social and emotional development and moral development at that time and doing a lot of learning about that with young children. And all of a sudden, I looked at these teenagers, and I was like, whoa, developmentally, they're kind of the same as the young children I'm working with. Isn't that interesting? How do I get to know more about that? So I pivoted and went to work with adjudicated teens. Oddly discovered that fairy tales work with them, that many of them had never heard the classic fairy tales. So when I got a chance to teach during the summer with them, I was an educational supervisor after a few years instead of a counselor. But I wanted to teach, so I went and I started teaching a class, and I used fairy tales with them, and they wrote and produced a play in fairy tales. And when I saw the magic that these kids were creating — they had done really bad things, all of them had been abused, and there's, like, all the trauma stuff in there, but we didn't know enough about it at that time to really make sense of that. But fairy tales resonated with them, and connection resonated with them. They wanted to retell their stories in a different way. And so that was really exciting. And then I thought, go back and work with little kids again. I did that.

Then I thought, maybe I should try to earn a living. Maybe a public school teacher wouldn't be all that bad because I could actually make a salary that I could support myself on. So I went back and got certified after I had my master's degree, I’d done my master's degree on fairy tales because of the teenagers that I'd been working with and went back and got certified and got a job teaching in a public school. And I taught kindergarten. I taught first grade. I incorporated play and storytelling into those which at that time, even though it was a long time ago, was way before no Child Left Behind. I wouldn't say that it was something that people actually understood. Well, my principal didn't at all. Parents didn't. They were really concerned that their first graders weren't doing worksheets and they were exploring and doing science outside and all this radical stuff. And the principal, when a 6th grade job opened, he said, I think you'd be happier in 6th grade because first grade parents are the hardest.

So I went to 6th grade and enjoyed that and ended up going and working in early intervention and director of a preschool, college lab school. And through everything, I was just like, I really just want to teach, I really just want to teach. I really just want to teach. And I ended up getting a job at a community college, and that's where I spent the last 20 years of my career, teaching teachers in education and early childhood at a community college and just couldn't have planned it. I always wanted to end up in college. I always wanted to get my doctorate. I got my doctorate at age 63.

Dr Diane: Good for you.

[27:09] Dr. Stephanie: And I did everything backwards. But I feel like every experience I had learning about learning kind of led me naturally into the next step and offered me a much stronger foundation that I would have had had I gone a much more linear route and just gone to college, becoming a certified teacher, taught elementary school, fourth grade was all I wanted to teach and just had that straight line. I felt my spiral really has led me to where I am now.

No Experience Is Wasted: Lessons Learned From the Quest

[28:19] Dr Diane: Well, I think that all of those experiences, they build on each other, and there's no such thing as wasted experience. It all comes into play later and is part of what fuels who you are and your adventure as you go on. And I'm thinking, as you're talking, you've done all these amazing things. Would you be able to distill if you were asked what would be, like, the top two things that you would tell somebody going forward as they're making their own plans? Two things you've taken from your own learning?

[28:54] Dr Stephanie: I think the first would be to trust your heart and trust that if you really are passionate about something, then it will turn out okay, or you will have the next opportunity. We'll make it okay. We'll follow it. And I guess the other thing is, for me, teaching is about relationships and all that. I've learned everything else. I've had fabulous professional development and read blah, blah, blah all of that I don't think has made me a better teacher as much as the fact that I really connect with students, whether they are three year olds or whether my oldest student at the community college was 88. And I just think that my connection with those with students is something that has helped me in my career, and I believe that it would help pretty much anybody. And sense of humor.

[30:12] Dr Diane: So trust your heart, build connections, and maintain a sense of humor. Sounds like a perfect road map to take into a break. And when we come back, we're going to continue to explore connections and happily ever afters.

Education Today: The Importance of Fairy Tales for Windows, Mirrors, Sliding Glass Doors, and Resilience

[31:32] Dr Diane: I'm assuming, with your book and doing professional development, you have the opportunity to travel to other schools and communities virtually and in person. Is that right?

[31:50] Dr Stephanie: That is correct.

[31:51] Dr Diane: So as you've gone, what are some of your favorite examples of ways you've seen teachers and or librarians build on the magic of your book or the stories that you reference in your book in new ways?

[32:05] Dr Stephanie: Well, I think the first thing that I felt with is that people are hungry for hearing about resilience because every child now, really because of the pandemic, has experienced…every teacher…some kind of toxic stress and trauma. And I think people are really open. I think the word is bouncing all over the place. So I think that's the first thing is that people are eager to hear more about resilience. Pretty much everybody's heard of ACEs, adverse childhood experiences, but framing it in a way that's not, like, so sad and heavy and not just, okay, and here's one more thing you need to pay attention to. But offering teachers tools, they're like, oh, yeah, we do that all the time. Well, here's how you could be a little bit more intentional and kind of twist the kaleidoscope so that you're more focused on the resilience aspect of it, and you'll be doing good things. So I think. That's one thing that has been really come back as feedback to me.

Another thing was kind of surprising, which is people are not sure that fairy tales are okay for children. And most people like fairy tales, and they liked them as children and as adults, they're interested. There are so many variants out in adult movies and once upon a time, a TV show, all of that stuff. And yet they've been told, oh, fairy tales are bad for kids because they're sexist, they're racist, they're agist, they're violent, they're this, and here, come on. I come going like, oh, no. Fairy tales are important for children's social and emotional development. I've got a lot of people who have really come forward after workshops or even during workshops and said, wow, I feel so liberated. How can I you know, I need to take this message back to the people who are telling me that we can't use fairy tales in classrooms because they're bad for kids without really understanding why.

[34:18] Dr Diane: That's really interesting. One of the things that I try really hard when I'm presenting books to teachers and children is to make sure that there are enough books out there that reflect Dr. Sims Bishop's Windows and Mirrors, that children see themselves reflected in the books that are out there, but also have opportunities to see books that open a window to the world and be able to experience other things. And so that, for me, has been one of the thrilling things with the folk literature that's coming out now is that so many of the fairy tales have been revamped in ways that the story is being presented from a different perspective. Yes, some of the archetypes have been turned on their heads, and then in other cases, voices that hadn't been heard before are suddenly being able to tell their version of the story. How did it resonate in their culture? And I think that that's become a really important voice to have in the classroom as well.

[35:14] Dr Stephanie: Absolutely. And it's been a tough thing. Some of the people who are doing a good job with just re-envisioning fairy tales, even classic European fairy tales, like Rachel Isadora, who has all of her fairy tales. She lived in Africa, and they all have very African her illustrations, very colorful, bright, wonderful. They're the same old European fairy tales. But she's placed them in Africa, and I was shocked to find out that she was white. And it was a big discussion that my editor and I had this, like, should these really be in here? Because she's not an African and she's not trying to tell an African story. But then I look back to my students who were African American, and they said, I've never seen a princess with dreads before, and I love this book. So it's hard, honestly. A lot of folk and fairy tales, as you know, from other cultures, you can find them in anthologies, but they're not in picture book form right yet. To me, I encourage teachers to tell stories. If you want to find stories from a child's home culture and you can't find a picture book, you can find it in an anthology, you could read it to children, you could learn it enough to tell it, which is such a magical way of interacting with children without the book and really bring those mirrors into the classroom.

[36:55] Dr Diane: And in some cases it's an opportunity to be able to invite relatives in to tell stories as well, to share the stories they grew up with.

[37:04] Dr Stephanie: Absolutely.

[37:04] Dr Diane: That builds that whole sense of connection, I think as well, between the classroom and the family.

Glass Slipper, Anyone? Building on Cinderella Tales Around the World

[37:10] Dr Stephanie: One of the things I love about the multicultural variants is that, for example, if you just take a Cinderella story, you name the culture, there's a picture book for it. I'm just shocked at finding more and more and more. Some of them are great and some of them are okay and some of them are not all that wonderful. But for a child to be able to — if you have a child in your classroom who comes from a different culture and everybody knows the American Cinderella story and you hear three different books over three or four weeks that you've shared those and then you bring in one from Iraq, kids will recognize the commonalities and I think it really offers children, as they take these stories and start to make their own connections in their play, in their dramatic play, In their playground play…They view diversity, I think, in a different way when they realize that everyone's got a Cinderella. And so how different could we really be?

*Disclosure: I am an affiliate of and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Side Note: Some of the Cinderella variations that Dr Stephanie includes in her book include: Cinderella (Marcia Brown), Yeh Shen (Ai-Ling Louie/Ed Young), The Golden Sandal (Rebecca Hickock/Will Hillenbrand), The Gift of the Crocodile (Judy Sierra/Reynold Ruffins), The Rough-Face Girl (Rafe Martin/David Shannon), Little Gold Star (Robert D. San Souci/Sergio Martinez), The Irish Cinderlad (Shirley Climo/Loretta Krupinksi), Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters (John Steptoe), Cendrillon (Robert D. San Souchi/Brian Pinkney) and Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella (Paul Fleishman/Julie Paschkis).

How can we help build connections between the worlds of imagination and STEM thinking about collaboration, critical thinking, and creative problem solving in order to help children be happy and competent?

[38:43] Dr Stephanie: That's the big question, isn't it? As I said. I really believe that a story, whether it's stories that you're reading to children, stories that children are telling in their own creative writing, or stories that they're playing — all young children have imaginations and unfortunately, because of screens of all kinds, we’ve seen kind of a decrease in the natural outpouring of imagination. Although it's very hard to study because there's imagery and so there isn't a whole lot of great solid research on imagination. But anecdotally we know that imagination seems to not be as prevalent in many children. However, given the opportunity, setting up an environment where children can use their imaginations, where it is encouraged, it's valued, I think it naturally leads to problem finding, problem solving. I mean, if you unleash your child's imagination, they will come up with ideas that they are curious about and that they wonder about and that they need to know the next step on. And there's so many connections between these stories and the natural world that I think inviting them to hear a story, deeply, know a story, go out and create that story on the playground, in the forest, in the cracks, and the sidewalk on the city street will link together. When they're in the story, when they're in their imaginations and they see a little tiny mushroom that’s sprouting up through a crack in a sidewalk on a city street, I think that helps them to focus more on that little tiny mushroom and want to wonder, what could it be? When they have heard a story about finding a magic pebble and then they find a piece of gravel in the parking lot and are encouraged to pick it up and wonder about it. I think all of those connections, I think children make those connections when we provide them with a rich story landscape sure. And the opportunity to view the natural world in the way that with wonder.

[41:16] Dr Diane: Well, I think that those opportunities for wonder and curiosity do indeed lead to building connections and being able to problem solve.

New Adventures in Learning: How is Dr. Stephanie Building Her Own Beyond Ever After?

[41:22] Dr Diane:So, Stephanie, what are you currently working on?

[41:28] Dr Stephanie: I'm trying to retire.

[41:30] Dr Diane: Good luck with that.

[41:32] Dr Stephanie: I know I finished the book after I mean, I wrote most of it after I retired in 2020. So I've had kind of an unusual first couple of years of retirement with a pandemic and the book. And at first I thought, I don't really know that I want to do anything else, why should I have to do anything? But that hasn't really lasted very long, and I'm contemplating where I want to go next with this work. I am really excited. Having the opportunity to present to people live has made a huge difference in my attitude towards how much excitement I get from sharing my work rather than just always on zoom. And I have ideas for another book, maybe, or other articles that I'd like exploring, maybe what does this look like with older kids? Because I've used fairytales all the way up through high school, of course. Or what does it look like with non fairy tale picture books? That's another whole thing I'm interested in. I've even, like, thought about what about movement. A lot of the research that I've done has really pointed to self-regulation, of how much movement is not being done in music, and how movement is not as much a part of early childhood classrooms. And I've been playing around with drums and trying to see my own self, like, what would that look like if I was using these with young children? And how does that develop self regulation? And so I'm playing just kind of open. I have ideas of a video series. I am living in this cute little house that has a turret. So, tales from the turret.

[43:21] Dr Diane: I love it.

[43:24] Dr Stephanie: I'm not sure that if that's the best way to get the word out. I am passionate about this idea that resilience, all teachers should know about resilience and feel the magic of it and to be able to share that magic with children. And how I do that, I’m still kind of poking around and trying to figure out what feels right for the balance in my life and what's meaningful to teachers who are actually actively in a classroom right now in 2022. What can they use that will help them do the best job that they can to help children become more resilient?

[44:06] Dr Diane: Well, it sounds like your Adventures in Learning are ongoing.

[44:11] Dr Stephanie: Listen to the drum circle and you'll see they're really ongoing.

What currently brings you joy?

[44:19] Dr Stephanie: Right now I have baby robins ins that are on a second fledge of baby robins on my porch in a little cornice. They bring me joy. Hummingbirds that have found my feeders and are there all the time. I'm starting to be able to identify the different specific, different hummingbirds that come, not species. I think they're all ruby throated, but I'm like, oh, yeah, you're the one with the green back and you're this one that brings me joy because I'm really curious about that. I am very lucky I live near a beach. Being in the water brings me great joy. Just because I'm playing, there's no restriction. I can do whatever I want. I can pretend whoever. I can be a mermaid, I can be a seagull. I can be anything I want to. And I'm far enough out that nobody hears me talking to myself. I pick up beach glass. I pick up rocks. Joy comes from being able to finally see friends again and spend time listening to music live and exploring and having a little bit more freedom now that a lot of the restrictions are lifted. So I would say many things bring me joy.

[45:37] Dr Diane: It sounds to me like you're integrating much of the magic that you've brought up in your book, that you are continuing with your own story magic and playful magic and doing magic. And I'd even say you have a little superpower magic as well.

[45:55] Dr Stephanie: Well, maybe a little bit, if I'm very still so I can watch the hummingbirds.

[46:01] Dr Diane: Stephanie, thank you so much for joining us today. It has been such a delight to have you on Adventures in Learning. And if people would like to get a copy of your book, where should they go?

[46:12] Dr Stephanie: Well, they can get it wherever books are sold. Redleaf Press is, of course, the place you can go get it directly from them, but it's also available on Amazon. If you have Amazon Prime, you get free shipping. But it's Barnes and Noble. I've heard people have seen it in bookstores around, so yeah, pretty much any of those places.

[46:35] Dr Diane: Great. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. It has been a real pleasure to have you on the show.

[46:40] Dr Stephanie: Thank you so much, Diane, it was wonderful talking with you again.

Please visit to learn more about how I help early childhood and elementary educators and librarians build connections between STEAM and multicultural picture books for engaged learning. Now booking keynotes, conference presentations, and professional development workshops for the 2022-23 school year.

Hey, early childhood and elementary school teachers and librarians -- are you looking for ways to spice up your curriculum, build connections with engaged STEAM learners, and introduce multicultural versions of fairy tales and folk literature? If so, check out my on-demand virtual course, Beyond Ever After. BACK TO SCHOOL SPECIAL: Enter DRDIANEPODCAST10 and get $10 off the price of a Beyond Ever After video experience (complete with PDF of book ideas and activity/STEAM challenge suggestions).

Welcome to the launch of a brand new adventure. In the spirit of building connections, we are going to be talking to a wide range of fascinating people this season. Each episode will explore adventures in learning from a unique perspective, plus feature interesting children's literature and picture books that will pair beautifully with STEM/STEAM challenges for engaged learning. Expect to hear from teachers, authors, STEM leaders, and more. There might even be a #bestdayever surprise or two in store.

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