Activity time: 10 minutes
Materials for Activity
- A copy of the story, "The Brave Little Parrot"
- A chime, a rain stick, or another calming sound instrument
- Optional: A copy of the picture book, The Brave Little Parrot, retold by Rafe Martin (Putnam and Sons, 1998)
Preparation for Activity
- Read the story a few times.
- Consider telling the story rather than reading it. Practice telling it aloud. Try imagining you are the parrot, the Deva, and the creatures endangered by the fire.
Description of ActivityThis story can be simply told without participation or props. As children hear it, they will experience both how difficult and how powerful it can be for one small being to act out of conscience and love, and not to give up, despite the odds. The children will also gain a clearer understanding of what courage and perseverance mean.
You may wish to clarify some elements in the story. The story begins with "Long ago the Buddha was born as a little parrot." You may, instead, begin the story, "Once there was a little parrot." Or, you may tell the group as much as you like of the following:
This story is a Jataka tale. It is one of hundreds of tales that the Buddha told. He was raised as a Hindu, and the Hindu religion believes that we each are reborn many times, as different animals and people. When we die, we come back as another person or animal.
All of the Jataka tales are about the Buddha in one of his former lives.
Later on, the story mentions "Gods of a happy realm... floating high overhead in their cloud palaces... " The idea of multiple gods living up above and looking down on Earth is also from the Hindu tradition.
Before you begin, look around the room and make eye contact with each person. Read or tell the story.
Ring the chime (use other sound instrument) to indicate that the story is over.
Follow the story with a discussion to deepen children's understanding that when we act from our hearts and don't give up, we can help to make change and inspire other people to work with us. In the discussion, you will also aim to help children to understand how working hard for something that we believe in can strengthen us spiritually. Not only do we feel true to ourselves when we persevere, but our sense of connection to others is strengthened as well. Use these questions:
- Why do you think the little parrot turned around and flew back into the fire when she was safely free? (You hope they will talk about how she wanted to help the other animals and how she knew that she would not be happy if they were not safe.)
- Why do think the little parrot continued to try to put out the fire when it was clear that her little drops were not enough? (Here you hope children will talk about doing something because it feels right, not because it is easy.)
- Why do you think the God who changed into an eagle decided to help the little parrot? (Here you hope that the children can talk about how he was moved by the love and dedication of the parrot and wished to be like her. When we act from our hearts, we are inspiring to others.)
- How do you think the little parrot was changed by this experience? (You are hoping that they will be able to identify that she felt stronger, a sense of achievement in helping others, and more connected with the other animals.)
After this discussion about the story, switch gears. Ask the children about their own experiences with working hard and not giving up. If you have already covered this adequately in Activity 1: Gems of Goodness, briefly mention one or two examples from stories the children shared earlier.
Children's examples of perseverance are very concrete, at this age. Share some of your own experiences of working toward a goal. Examples: working and saving money to buy a bike, practicing a musical instrument or a sport when other friends were going out to play, helping to tend a garden or take care of a pet. Another example of perseverance that they might have experienced would be making something that takes a lot of time such as a sand castle, a snow person, a tree fort, something complicated with Legos, or a sewing or knitting project. Allow some children to share. Then say:
See, you already know how to work hard for something, if it is important to you.
Later, they can draw on this memory to work hard when love and conscience call.