Credit: Courtesy of American Memory
Animal tales are an important part of the folklore of many cultures. While some of these tales involve only animal characters, many involve cooperative relationships between people and animals that are ultimately beneficial to both. Others demonstrate the consequences when people and animals fail to peacefully coexist. Mostly, though, the study of helpful animal folktales recalls a time when people and animals shared the earth and when humans respected their animal companions. However, the ever-growing list of endangered species and ongoing concern with the fate of our environment reveals that humans and animals do not longer share the cooperative relationship portrayed in the folktale world. More often than not, human beings are in conflict with their environment and the animals in it.
Study of humans and animals in cooperation and conflict within folktales lends itself well to a simple lesson on ecology and endangered species, where students can explore how humans' cooperative relationship with nature has been compromised. By studying basic ecology, students can make connections between the relationships between human beings and animals in folklore and the relationship between people and the environment in our world.
Note: While intended for grades 3-5, this lesson could easily be adapted for K-2 by omitting the group work in favor of whole-group discussion and more teacher direction.
3 class periods