Activity time: 10 minutes
Materials for Activity
- A copy of the story "Why Death Is Like the Banana Tree"
- A large basket
- Objects related to the story such as a banana, a picture of a banana tree, moon rocks, a picture or model of the moon, an illustration of the phases of the moon, a young plant just beginning to sprout
- A rain stick, or another instrument with a calm sound
- Optional: Box or small table and a decorative cloth cover
- Optional: Fidget basket (see Session 1, Leader Resource 4)
Preparation for Activity
- Place the story-related items and the chime, rain stick, or other sound instrument in the story basket. Place the filled basket in the storytelling area you have designated.
- Read the story a few times. Plan how you will use items from the story basket as props.
- Optional: To provide a focal point where story-related items can sit while you tell the story, set up a box or table next to your storytelling area and drape it with a decorative cloth.
- Optional: If you have a basket of fidget objects for children who will listen and learn more effectively with something in their hands, make the basket available during this activity. Remind children where it is before you begin the "centering" part of this activity. See Session 1, Leader Resource 4, Fidget Objects for a full description of fidget baskets and guidance for using them.
Description of Activity
Gather participants in a circle in the storytelling area and show them the story basket. Say something like, "Let's see what's in our story basket this week."
Tell the group the items in the story basket will be placed on this table after the children have passed them around the circle. Take the story-related items from the basket, one at a time, and pass them around. Objects that are fragile, or which should not be passed around for any reason, can be held up for all to see and then placed directly on the table.
Name each object and ask a wondering question about each one, e.g., "Who has seen a full moon? Who has seen a half moon? Has anyone ever seen a banana tree?"
As items come back to you, display them on the table. Remove the sound instrument from the story basket. Tell the children that every time you tell a story, you will first use the instrument to help them get their ears, their minds, and their bodies ready to listen. Invite them to sit comfortably and close their eyes (if they are comfortable doing so). You may tell them that closing their eyes can help them focus just on listening. If someone is unable to close their eyes or sit still, invite them to hold one of the story basket items or an item from the fidget basket. In a calm voice, say:
As you breathe in, feel your body opening up with air. As you breathe out, feel yourself relaxing.
Repeat this once or twice and then say:
When I hit the chime (turn the rain stick over), listen as carefully as you can. See how long you can hear its sound. When you can no longer hear it, open your eyes and you will know it is time for the story to begin.
Sound the chime or other instrument. When the sound has gone, begin telling the story "Why Death Is Like the Banana Tree." Read or tell the story slowly, like a meditation. Use the rain stick again to indicate that the story is over.
- I wonder what it would be like to die like the moon?
- I wonder what the world would be like if people didn't have children like the banana tree?
- What do you suppose the world would be like if nobody ever died?
- I wonder how the people felt after they made their choice and somebody they loved died?
- I wonder what nature teaches us about death?
- This story is one explanation of what happens when you die. I wonder if any of you have ever heard other ideas about what happens when you die? (Hear children's ideas without judgment. Affirm that different Unitarian Universalists have different ideas about what happens after death, and nobody can really know the answer to that question for sure.)
Including All Participants
Make sure everyone has an opportunity to experience the items in the basket, whether by sight or touch.
You may wish to make fidget objects available to children who find it difficult to sit still while listening to a story or can focus better with sensory stimulation. Remind children where the fidget basket is before you begin the "centering" part of this activity. (For a full description and guidance, see Session 1, Leader Resource 4.)
Consider using rug squares in the storytelling area. Place them in a semi-circle with the rule "One person per square." This can be very helpful for controlling active bodies.