VR Storytelling for health education

lenape story

The COVID-19 pandemic as it continues has left all of us in some state that we did not envision or tackle before. As a mother of a college and middle school student, it has been constantly terrifying seeing not only death due to the disease but numerous new articles around the world about adult and teenage suicides due to lockdown or online learning situation. A few months back my own daughter was very frustrated and could not handle staring at a camera on Zoom for 8 hours in a day being just 12 years old. Even in Corporate world meetings do not extend 1 to 1.5 hours and here are younger K-12 children being online with a camera for prolonged time not just affecting health but mental state. She did go to Hybrid School program which allowed her the much needed social face to face interaction even though only 5 students were in the classroom
The current scenario makes me think that the time that I spent as a child was so less traumatic as I did not need to face such life changing challenges at an early age.
Last year we did a project for the Delaware tribe of Indians where we got a traditional Native Indian story to VR using the same storytelling techniques that the Lenape Indians used centuries back to pass on their traditional stories.
As a child who has grown up hearing indigenous stories from my grandparents, the project gave us immense joy to relive our storytelling days during lunch, evening time or when we were travelling by train. The amazing thing about the stories that was narrated by my grandma was the ability to switch characters to our liking. In one of the stories she narrated, I was not happy with a animal character so she switched to another likeable animal character using amazing voice and sentiments to narrate the short stories. The stories were short and did not extend beyond 10-15 minutes as the short narration kept the children engaged during a short lunch or dinner session.
Why Storytelling ? Research from NIH shows that storytelling is an amazing tool that not only provides more impactful teaching about nature, culture or biodiversity preservation but also is the key reason to good health. The study concludes that “For centuries, American Indians successfully depended on their own cultural practices to achieve and maintain good health. Storytelling provides a most excellent tool to reclaim values of wellness in tribal communities.”
Hodge FS, Pasqua A, Marquez CA, Geishirt-Cantrell B. Utilizing traditional storytelling to promote wellness in American Indian communities. J Transcult Nurs. 2002;13(1):6-11. doi:10.1177/104365960201300102

Virtual Reality Medium for Storytelling As a parent in this modern era I realize that with jobs, careers my children have not been so lucky to get the pleasure of enjoying immense extensive “bundle of stories” that my grandparents, parents or uncles would narrate to us every night – especially as two decades back we were bereft of T.V, social media or other distractions. In today’s modern world life is more challenging and we envisioned blending the old story telling tradition with modern VR as it had the capacity to take us to the wonderful location where we could enjoy a indigenous story using traditional storyteller. Without the “cartoon style” animations we used a visual format of the central character to portray his/her emotions.
-Sushmita Chatterjee – Founder – Learnroll Immerse
You can check out our Story of the Tribe which uses a VR traditional storytelling format and download it on on Oculus Quest device