Growing up on a reserve in Michigan without such luxuries as televisions or Netflix , Casey Nees learned the importance of storytelling at a very young age.
Ness presented the “On your mark! Get set! Move!” program at the King Public Library last Friday as part of the summer reading program for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Nees showcased a robust combination of the importance of science and reading through thrilling fairytales and electrifying science experiments.
“I try my best to get the kids to think that science is a creative endeavor,” Nees said.
The presentation, part of Nees’ touring routine, engaged students in movement based storytelling, in which the students acted out the characters, items and situations that arose throughout the course of the story. One minute during the program the kids would be laying on their stomachs hissing like a snake and the next they would be propping themselves up like London Bridge from the classic nursery rhyme.
One of the stories followed the happenings in a magical realm where a “terrible ice dragon” named Donald ruled, another of the stories dealt with the true story of the Big Bad Wolf.
Every story ended with the infamous phrase “…lived happily ever after.”
For Nees the inclusion of science in his routine is essential, having originally planned to go into science education, but decided against it after the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was instated.
“We tend to push it as bland, a pile of boring,” Nees said of the general outlook that is associated with science. “The great scientists were creative thinkers.”
Nees said that he worked at a coffee shop for a period of time during his younger days, but quickly became bored by the repetitive nature of the business and began doing storytelling at the coffee shop. Nees explained that the next thing he knew, area kids had stopped showing up to the library and were lining up at the coffee shop in droves.
The library that Nees was drawing visitors from later called and recruited his abilities for programs at the library, even offering to pay for a master’s degree in library sciences.
Nees worked as the preschool services specialist at the Chippewa River District Library and later as the children’s manager for the Durham County Library.
Despite experiencing success in the library world, Nees decided to rediscover his passion for storytelling by founding his own touring storytelling company, Casey’s Laugh and Learn.
Currently, Nees travels the state of North Carolina performing at libraries, schools and other venues. In addition to his instate touring, Nees has performed in South Carolina, Connecticut and Michigan, where he will be performing his upcoming holiday themed show, “The Insane Science of Santa Claus.”
According to Nees, “The Insane Science of Santa Claus” looks at the logistics of how the big man with rosy red cheeks does what he does, including how he’s able to go down a chimney and how his reindeer fly, which Nees attributes to “fart” power.
“I like to sneak the education in so they don’t know what’s happening,” Nees said of his educational storytelling approach.
Nees explained that science was always a passion of his growing up, but that later in high school much of the joy he received from the subject was taken from him due to educational pressures, which in turn has driven him towards a more fun based learning approach.
“It was great- I thought he was very engaging and animated with the kids,” Tiffany Boyles, a parent in attendance at the event said of Nees’ storytelling. “I was entertained as a parent.”
“I love the way he integrates reading and the importance of public libraries,” Ann Nichols, branch librarian, said of Nees. “When he makes the kids laugh, he also makes the parent’s faces light up because they’re happy to see their kids having fun.”
Nees said that the biggest venue that he’s performed at thus far was the Wells Fargo Theatre in Charlotte to an audience of 600 people.
The storytelling program at the King Public Library featured performances at both 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.