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Years ago, I asked my son's preschool teacher for some help regarding an issue we were having with him. His teacher suggested I create a story to tell him before he went to sleep, using a character much like himself who found ways to overcome his problems. I was delighted at how well this technique worked and grew to have a love for stories with life lessons. As a storyteller, I had plenty of entertaining stories, but now I had a new mission, to collect stories and songs which would help young children learn to make good choices.

In 2002, I began developing curriculum using the expressive arts as a medium for character education for ages 4-10. A year later, I began successfully piloting this program I've termed "Choosing Well". For two years the project needed to be put on hold as I took on a demanding full time job and began to make preparations to move our family from Arizona to the Pacific Northwest. Now located in Portland, Oregon, I am ready to move full force on sharing "Choosing Well" with groups of children in my new community.

Guiding Principles (top)

This curriculum is developed with some guiding principles. Like the first experience I had with sharing a story for character development with my son, I want the children in my programs to have a symbolic gift their minds can unwrap. I have purposely chosen props, stories, songs and dances that are symbolic or poetic. I want beautiful and strong images to be attached to these character concepts so an emotional response might be evoked. Everyday objects are used in order to trigger a memory from the curriculum on a daily basis. An example is the use of a grocery sack to make music as we sing about caring, the virtue of carrying someone's load.

Another guiding principle for "Choosing Well" is to make sure each session is multi-cultural. By representing diversity, children are encouraged to view life from different perspectives. This is the foundation for respect, fairness, and caring. It also celebrates who they are individually and who we are as a nation. I share with the children what countries the stories, songs and dances come from and we sing at least one song in a foreign language. Simple signs from American Sign Language will be taught to help the children have a means to recognize each other showing good character. Sign language is a kinesthetic and visual language and with accompanied verbalization, it covers all learning styles.

Program Summary (top)

Each session will include two stories, one folktale and one biographical story. Several songs with movements will nest in between these stories. If the group is able to make a circle in the room, instrument playing and circle dances can be included in the program. Anytime the body is involved, memory is given another means to hold onto the lesson.

A program which includes the circle dancing is designed for single classrooms and is 50 minutes long. There is room for flexibility and all sessions can be designed to meet your scheduling needs.

           Photo by Mark Goldstein

"Dena is a genuine and kind person who is able to convey good values through stories and music. Her presentations capture and hold the attention of her listeners."
Kristen Marzocca, parent and teacher

Current Thematic Program Choices (top)

Focusing Attention

  • choosing a focus
  • persevering

Breathing and Laughter

  • noticing our breath
  • discovering joy

Feeling Awareness and Expression

  • naming our feelings
  • choosing healthy ways to express feelings


  • telling the truth
  • being a loyal friend


  • manners
  • the Golden Rule


  • active listening
  • problem solving together

Upcoming Thematic Program Choices (top)


  • finding the will within
  • facing fear


  • doing your best
  • admitting mistakes


  • being helpful
  • considering other's feelings

Contact Information

Email: dena@denawilder.com
Phone: (503) 236-0854
Phone: (503) 236-0854

Copyright 2006 Dena Wilder

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