Rock Thoughts encourages creativity, storytelling

By Brianna Wellen

Meepo the rock always wanted to join the circus, and when it finally came to town, Meepo spent every day in the front row and watched the acts, ranging from a magician to a trapeze artist. One lonely elephant also sat and watched every day and never moved until he finally became friends with Meepo the rock. Or so the story goes on

Local mother of three Karla Valenti created Rock Thoughts to incorporate storytelling into a physical and digital form. Originally meant to help children learn storytelling, Valenti painted “rock monsters” and encouraged her kids to write stories about them to share on the website, which went live in April.

After those stories were posted to the site, the rocks were hidden in various public spaces, such as parks, sidewalks or on top of fire hydrants, in hopes that someone else will pick them up and write the next thread of their story online. Each one is colorfully painted with the website listed on the bottom and a code to keep track of the rocks’ journey.

“It’s teaching children that they can take something like a rock and use their imagination and create something with it that impacts other people,” Valenti said. “One kid does a rock, another kid writes a story and hides it, another kid finds it and writes another story. These three kids never met, but they’ve all been connected through this tangible object and worked to create something together.”

Valenti started Rock Thoughts as a weekend project with her oldest son, who is now 7. It was eventually introduced to her son’s first-grade class to teach storytelling. Soon, the idea was taught to children ages 3 to 5 by Lori Kaiser, a day care teacher at Childtime in Evanston, Ill.

Kaiser has her pre-kindergarten students decorate rocks with arts and crafts supplies, like googly eyes and pipe cleaners. They tell a story for the rock as they create it with the help of teachers. From there, students take the rocks home and hide them somewhere in their community with their parents—with the code and website on the bottom like Valenti’s homemade rocks—to keep the storytelling cycle going.

“[Rock Thoughts] is involving the community, it’s involving storytelling and it’s involving creativity, which is awesome for children,” Kaiser said. “To me, it’s really important that they understand they can be creative and how they see things is creative, and that’s what we should enhance.”

Though the concept was originally created for children, Valenti has found a lot of adults discovering the rocks and submitting their stories.

“It just goes to show there’s a storyteller in all of us,” Valenti said. “It kind of demystifies storytelling and breaks the boundary between, ‘Oh, you’re a kid and I’m a grown up, we can’t play together,’ kind of thing.”

For Valenti, the virtual aspect will allow kids to share connections with all different kinds of people. Along with the contributions of different age groups, she has already reached out to different countries.

Ursula Mejia Melgar, a mother of two in Switzerland, has known Valenti for years and participated in the project with her 2- and 5-year-old children. They have lived in Switzerland for a year, and she found that the project is a good way for her kids to creatively express their feelings about being in a different country. She shared the project with other parents in Switzerland, and they are all eager to upload their stories onto the site.

“I love this project because it speaks about the reality of being human, being able to create tangible things and the huge enabler the Internet is to connect,” Melgar said. “It seems like a very simple idea, but that simplicity is what is beautiful about it. It doesn’t need to be something too crazy to work.”

As the project grows, Valenti wants to keep the concept simple but will add more incentives. She wants to incorporate a reward system determined by how many stories people contribute. Prizes would include books and art supplies, among other things, to inspire more creativity.

In addition, she said she wants to put out a physical anthology with some of the best stories once the site hits its one-year mark.

“I’m looking at this push into virtual technologies and how we can use social media as a learning tool,” Valenti said. “And I think that’s fantastic, but then you also have a physical, tangible object that gets transported from one place to another. It’s just a really fun way to engage kids.”

To read submitted stories and find out more information about the project, visit