Activity time: 10 minutes
Materials for Activity
- A bell
Preparation for Activity
- Make sure you can create a large enough space for this activity in your meeting space, or plan to bring the group to a larger space. You will need to move out of earshot to give the "Buddhist students" a chance to confer with one another. If you will be in a different room from the children, make sure another adult is available to be with the group.
- If possible, be ready to send another adult with the children to guide their discussion. Coach the adult to take the role of an older Buddhist student. They can ask the children - the "Buddhist students" - "What should we do now?"
Description of Activity
After the story, "The Wise Teacher's Test," tell the children that they are now going to act out what might have happened next in the story. Tell the children that you will pretend to be the Buddhist teacher and that they can pretend to be the children in the story. Ask one child to volunteer to be the Buddhist student who stayed behind. You may say:
Let's pretend for the next few minutes that our meeting space is the Buddhist temple in the story. I am going to pretend to be the wise old teacher. Most of you will pretend to be the students who stopped outside of the gate when their teacher sent them into town.
Tell the children where they will go when it is time, in the dramatic play, to go outside of the gate. If they will leave your meeting space, indicate the adult who will go with them. If the adult is willing to help guide the children's conversation when you are not present, suggest they may be one of the older students in the group. Say:
When you are outside the temple gate, please pretend you are the students in the story. Please talk quietly about what the teacher has asked you to do, and what you are going to do about it.
Tell the group that the student who stayed behind (the child who volunteered) will come to get them when it is time to return to the temple room. Then say:
Do you think the students in that temple sat in chairs? No, they sat on the floor. Will you agree to pretend this for the next few minutes?
To begin dramatic play, sound a bell - you may like to use the sound instrument from your story Basket. Then say, in an altered voice, if you like:
Students, our school is in big trouble. We need money. If we don't have money, our school will close. Then none of you will have a school. Here is what you must do. Go out into the marketplace. Sneak around, looking for rich people. Take their purses, and steal money for our school. Make sure nobody sees you!
Go now! Go to the city and steal for our school!
When most of the children have left, stay in character as the Buddhist teacher and say to the child who stayed behind:
Why did you not go with your friends to steal? Don't you want to save our school?
Guide the child to formulate an answer that echoes the answer given by the student in the story. If possible, engage the child to say something like, "Even if no one else saw me, I would always see myself." As the Buddhist teacher, congratulate the child on their good response. Then say:
Go quickly and bring back your friends before we get into trouble!
Send the child to get the others. As the children return, invite them to sit on the floor in front of you, still in character. Say:
Welcome back, Buddhist students. I apologize for confusing you and pretending to ask you to steal. You are right that as Buddhists we do not take anything that is not freely given to us. Sometimes Buddhist teachers feel that students learn best when put to a test, or surprised by something different. I hope today you will learn a valuable lesson.
Now say to the child who stayed behind:
Why did you not go with your friends to steal? Didn't you want to save our school?
Help the child answer, as needed: "Even if no one else saw me, I would always see myself." Then engage the other children with these questions:
- I am wondering what you were feeling when I asked you to go and steal.
- I am wondering what you were talking about outside of the gate.
- I am wondering if you know what (name of the child who pretended to be the student who stayed behind) meant when they said, "I would always see myself."
- What else did you wonder about or feel from what happened today?
A child will probably express that they felt that it would be wrong to steal. Tell the group that those feelings show that their consciences are working.
End the drama by saying, in your own words:
All right, Buddhist students. Enough lessons for one day. It is time for morning chores. When the bell (or other sound instrument) rings, this dramatic lesson will be over.
Sound the bell to end dramatic play.
Including All Participants
When you ask the children to pretend to be the Buddhist students, you may observe behavior such as a non-Asian child pulling on their eyes to make them look slanted or speaking in a stereotypical manner mimicking an Asian accent. It is very important to immediately ask the child to stop. Remind them that their behavior is hurtful to people of Asian descent and could make Moral Tales a place where children might feel afraid they will be made fun of if they are different from some of the others. Suggest that to act like the characters in the story, the children need only imagine how they it would feel to be that person.
Some children are extremely reluctant to engage in dramatic play. If gentle encouragement does not work, you may offer a child a place out of the action to sit and watch.