Story Telling Framework

Story Telling Framework: A Learning History

National Forest Gardening Scheme

Story Telling Framework

This framework is based on a research paper called ‘Learning History’ published by Margaret Gearty. A learning history is a tried and tested approach which is particularly useful for capturing the learning that’s occured through a group experience. It records the steps taken along a learning journey; the pivotal moments, the opportunities taken or not taken, actions, memories, successful as well as unsuccessful experiments, and the part played by chance and circumstance which are otherwise lost in traditional case studies that march in a straightforward sequence towards an outcome.


  1. Tangibility: The learning history centres on tangible events over a specific time frame.
  2. Co-production: The story is jointly told by those involved in the development of the forest garden, and the people who are eliciting the story from them (the learning historians). The learning historian(s) role is to facilitate the story telling to elicit learning.
  3. Multiple stakeholder involvement: The story is told by multiple people involved in the forest garden, explicitly drawing out multiple perspectives so that hidden assumptions and ‘taken for granted’ storylines can be explored, if necessary challenged and nuanced.
  4. The learning historian produces the learning history in a written format or other suitable medium, and it is then reviewed and agreed by the forest garden group before being shared. It can include pictures and video.

Areas to be explored through facilitated conversation.

Together map the key moments along the path from dreaming of your forest garden, to getting people interested, to finding a plot, to planting and enjoying your forest garden.

These moments can of course include the date when the group first met, or when the funding arrived, or when you walked the land together, when you planted the first tree or windbreak, when you celebrated your first harvest. But the real benefit to be realised from this process comes from uncovering and including diverse ideas of what these key moments were which can also include what didn’t work and when there were disagreements, and listening to why this was so, and what different people learned, about themselves, about the group, about the process you were engaged in, about what the garden was for.

Here are some questions for group members that might help prompt reflections before we meet as a group. Absolutely no need to answer them all! But it might help to take a few notes of what comes up for you as you read them.

  1. How did you make a start with this project/development? What was your first step?
  2. How did you prepare to make this first step? e.g. people you spoke with, or helped you; gathering together resources needed; sketching out the project?
  3. What were your hopes and dreams for the project at the start?
  4. What and/or who has inspired you in this project?
  5. What has it taken to keep going with this project?
  6. What resources have you drawn upon;
  • Land
  • People – as volunteers and perhaps some paid roles
  • Governance and organisation
  • Funds/income
  • Plants, soil, materials (to build/make things
  • anything else
  1. What skills and knowledge have you made use of?
  2. What didn’t work so well and what did you learn?
  3. Can you remember useful disagreements?
  4. What stage are you at now? Describe what the project does, who’s involved
  5. Can you describe ways in which the project has supported health and well-being?
  6. Are there other things the project supports, such as biodiversity or community cohesion?
  7. What are you most pleased or proud of about the project?
  8. What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced/overcome?
  9. What is most important to you about the project? How does it fit with your hopes for the world?