A 4-Star Recipe
There is a lot of discussion these days on bullying in schools, on the playground, at the grocery store, ad infinitum. Stories abound of kids even being bullied on Facebook, which is sad, especially when it’s so easy to block annoying people from that social media tour-de-force. It’s a problem, but I believe it’s a learned problem.
Darwin would probably agree with me that no child is ever born with an abusive gene, but rather that those traits are being taught, whether consciously or not. So, do we try and correct the problem as it happens, or do we try and prevent it from happening at all? I proffer the latter…
Occasionally I will puff the dust from my graphic design degree and former source of income (I walked away from the business to illustrate and write books and magazines for kids, and haven’t looked back since), in order to assist a terrific organization here in my little town known as Music Theatre of Wichita. My predilection for all things involving juvenile literature makes me a perfect candidate for the design, writing, and illustrating of MTW’s annual KIDSBILL, a 14-page activity based booklet that is handed out during their annual Special Needs show for underprivileged kids. This year the show being presented was HONK!, a wonderful production based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling.”
As I gathered materials and began researching the topic, it became clear that the underlying tone of HONK! was one of tolerance. The main character (Ugly) is rejected by all that come in contact with him, save for his mother who naturally loves him, and a cat that would love to eat him. The majority of barnyard animals are relentless in their taunting of the strange (to them anyway) Ugly, and he wanders off with the cat who promises to be his friend. Ugly manages to avoid being Sunday dinner, but gets lost in the process, ultimately to be reunited with his family as a handsome swan. And so on…
Along with the requisite word searches, hidden puzzles, mazes, and other types of art-based activities in the booklet, I also like to include a few think pieces that involve the moral of the tale. Parents love this stuff, but that’s not why I do it.
Being the kind of person that looks at everything differently, I chose to avoid the typical pleas and approaches to teaching kids. There were plenty too: Talk with your kids, show your kids how to be tolerant, explain the dark side of bullying, etc. All good ideas, but I was looking for something that kids could actually formulate themselves. In short, make the idea theirs.
I love taking existing vehicles for communication and “tossing them in a blender” so to speak. My first thought was to have kids draw pictures of what they thought tolerance was. Not bad, but I could do better. When I wrote WordPlay Cáfe in 2004, I based it on “recipes” for kids to create their own wordplay games, leaving plenty of room for self-investigation and license. Enter the recipes for tolerance…
This is something you can do with your students that shouldn’t take a great deal of resources, but will provide a learning lesson wrapped in fun (the best kind). Ask your charges to come up with their own individual recipe for tolerance. Be sure to have them include ingredients, maybe some extra seasoning. Don’t forget the prep work and cooking times and temperatures. I’ll give an example:
Mikey’s Tolerance Tortillas
1 ½ cups of forgiveness
2 TBSP of an open mind
5 large leaves of respect
3 pounds of finely chopped patience
Mix the forgiveness, the open mind, and the patience in a large bowl and set aside. Take the leaves of respect and sprinkle them with sweet words and understanding. Roll the mixture up in the leaves, and bake in any social situation for at least thirty minutes. Serve with a warm heart and a charitable dipping sauce.
If you want to kick it up a notch (Thanks Emeril!), ask your students to think of where their recipes might be served to the best effect (at home, during a school football game, etc.). Be sure to ask the kids where they would find their ingredients, and check with them to find what ingredients would not go well with their recipes.
There are many other ways to teach tolerance as well, but we’ll save that for another blog. And the best part about these kinds of “cooking”?
Teach. Learn. Enjoy.