Story Quest is a digital, creative writing program granted for free to schools. The objective is to make award-winning and life-changing Story Pirates literacy programming accessible to any interested under-resourced school. Participating students embark on an exciting and hilarious 4-part audio adventure through outer space, as they help Captain Eric on a strange mission fraught with peril, and an unexpected number of Space Mice. In each installment of these short audio stories, students experience unforgettable demonstrations and instruction in how to craft standards-based narrative fiction that can fit into any number of lesson plans and genre studies.
The content focuses on the pillars of Story Writing, with a four-episode sequence that is accompanied by creative mini-lessons that teachers use to help students further engage with the ideas in each episode. As students work on creating original stories, teachers also deepen their experience by using our custom graphic organizers for each topic.
The only condition to participate is that each student must write a completely original story for us to read and respond to with words of encouragement. The program culminates when Captain Eric himself records a final, personalized message for each and every participating classroom that names the hard work and creativity of specific writers, celebrating dozens of kids’ creative ideas.
The Story Quest program is granted to schools who demonstrate the need for free programming in their application. Outreach is conducted by Story Pirates staff members, using existing relationships with Title I schools in and around the cities in which Story Pirates is headquartered (New York and Los Angeles, where we used to be limited to for our reach). We also go well beyond those geographical confines by tapping into our international network of fans. Dedicated staff review the rolling applications and select schools for participation. Participating classes are separated into 6-week cohorts. The program is executed through email delivery of the audio files and printable worksheets which are housed behind a password-protected section of our website. A package is delivered to each teacher to simplify collecting and sending us the students’ stories. A Story Pirates staff member is designated to communicate with the schools to answer questions, troubleshoot issues, and identify those kids that may have struggled the most to ensure the final audio surprise includes their ideas.
Story Quest was developed by the award-winning Story Pirates creative team alongside our experienced education staff to ensure it met both curricular standards and our own level of artistic quality. Our goal is for 90% of participating students to complete each worksheet and their own original story. We assess this through the submission process which is closely tracked through our database.
Challenges that have presented themselves throughout the duration of this program are mainly logistical: mailing materials, tracking the return of said materials, and sending back the personalized audio messages and Story Love notes for every single classroom and student. Participating teachers are encouraged to go at their own pace, which can alter the timeline put in place internally for each cohort. School closures, holidays, and breaks can also disrupt the process, but with year-round attention to this program and a “yes, and” mindset derived from our improvisational roots, Story Pirates staff is able to pivot as needed.
In the inaugural year of the Story Quest program, 132 schools were invited to apply; 18 filled out the application. All applicants were granted into one of the two cohorts of the 2022-2023 school year, and 17 completed the program. 695 original student stories were returned to Story Pirates and sent back with “Story Love” notes of encouragement.
The mission of the Story Quest program was to present innovative, fun, narrative-driven educational material which classroom teachers could use with their students, without Story Pirates teaching artists being in the room (either digitally or in person), and with minimal physical materials, thereby broadening the reach of our programming. The content was and is intended to reinforce academic (or other) concepts that will be practical for classroom teachers.
In a post-mortem survey completed by all participating schools, 100% of teachers remarked that their students found Story Quest fun to listen to, were actively engaged and listening when the audio episodes were played, and were motivated to write upon completion of each episode. In comparison to other creative writing assignments, the stories produced through the Story Quest program were more “creative, advanced, detail-oriented, well-organized, personal, passionate, [and showed more] variety,” according to these same teachers surveyed.
Based on the feedback received from participants, we find this program to be a resounding success. Students were motivated and engaged throughout the program, the quality of their writing was noticeably stronger, and teachers, regardless of their previous experience with Story Pirates, were excited by the material.