Every good story needs a moral.
Particularly when it comes to stories for young children, the ones that are both entertaining and provide an ethical compass are always the most memorable.
What was initially a collection of bedtime stories has grown to become a crucial resource for teaching 3 to 5-year-olds how to improve their social skills, emotional capabilities and consciousness about their environment.
“The original stories for Imagineland were those which I invented for my own children,” explains the creator of Imagineland, Dr Charles Margerison.
“I would come home rather tired from work and they would ask me to read a story. Usually I felt the written stories from books were a bit repetitive. I decided it would be better if I invented the story and we all went on a journey to meet the characters that I had created.”
“They would ask questions about the characters as we walked. For example, with Roley Poley they would ask ‘why did he roll down hills’ or ‘how fast did he go’. By asking me questions, they inspired me to develop the story in a way that was more interactive.”
Imagineland has grown to become a series of multimedia-rich episodes that follow the adventures of siblings Amy, Alex, Dan and Sofia as they explore their surroundings.
Each story in the series has been written with specific educational outcomes.
The episodes encourage kids to learn about society and working with one another.
They teach respect for nature, respect for others and they provide guidelines for how to develop strong personal habits that lead to success in later life.
“In discussing the idea of the stories with people who were teaching in kindergartens and preschools, I realised that they wanted examples of characters who could teach the students ideas about social behaviour,” says Dr Margerison.
“This could be the determination to work hard or giving the kids the understanding of protecting the environment.”
For example, ‘Hairy Herby’ is an Imagineland story where the siblings are travelling through the forest without realising they are disturbing the creatures that live in the area, including a small insect named Hairy Herby.
The kids learn about Hairy Herby’s way of life and how next time they should take better care when walking through different habitats.
“The idea was always to take up what the teachers were saying we need to do in showing children how to be socially responsible,” says Dr Margerison.
“We need to raise their level of aspiration, we need to help them respect and help each other. They are the themes I have transferred into stories reflecting characters in Imagineland.”
Imagineland has already been successfully trialled in classrooms throughout the United Kingdom and Australia.
So far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Teachers are praising Imagineland’s ability to get kids active, both physically and mentally.
After watching ‘Roley Poley’, a story about a mole who is a world champion at rolling down hills, one class was particularly inspired.
“Michelle Ravenscroft the teacher said immediately the children were up on their feet dancing,” says Dr Margerison.
“She took them outside and they wanted to set up their own world championship just like Roley Poley."
“We have found the children become proactive, they take on the message from the story, they get out and do things rather than just listening to it. That is the important thing, we want the children to become active rather than passive.”
The Imagineland website is currently in its beta testing phase but is already available to all schools who wish to participate.