Activity time: 5 minutes
Materials for Activity
- A large basket
- A stuffed animal seal or pictures of seals in the wild
- A chime, a rain stick, or another calming sound instrument
- Moral Compass poster
- A bold marker, or a piece of card stock and tape or a stapler
- Optional: Box or small table and a cloth cover
- Optional: A globe or a world map
Preparation for Activity
- Place the story-related items, the altar cloth if you have one, and the chime, rain stick or other sound instrument in the story basket. Place the filled basket in the storytelling area you have designated for Moral Tales.
- If you will make an altar as a focal point for story objects, set up the box or table you will use next to your storytelling area. Do not put the cloth on it yet. It is not necessary to ritualize the altar as a sacred place. It can simply serve as a focal point where objects related to the story will be visible while you tell the story.
- Place the Moral Compass poster where all of the children can see it as they sit in the storytelling area.
- Write the word "Empathy" on a piece of card stock to attach to the Moral Compass poster. Or, if you prefer, plan to write the word "Empathy" directly on the poster.
- 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 Leader Resources for a full description of fidget baskets and guidance for using them. The story, "The Wounded Seal," is more interactive than some stories. Children who are usually drawn to the fidget objects may not need them in this session.
Description of Activity
Gather the children in a circle in the storytelling area. Show them the story basket. Say something like, "Let's see what's in our story basket this week."
If you are using an altar as a focal point, take the cloth cover from the story basket and drape it over the box or small table. If the cloth cover has a special story, such as who made it, where it comes from, or the meaning of any symbols on it, briefly share the story with the children. Tell the group that the items in the story basket will be placed on this altar or table after the children have passed them around the circle.
Take the story-related items from the basket, one at a time, and pass the stuffed seal or picture of seals around.
If you have a globe or a world map, indicate Scotland. Tell the children that this is the country where this folk tale comes from. Point out Scotland's northern coastline, and say that cold ocean waters are where seals live.
Tell the children, in your own words:
In some parts of the world, including Scotland, where this folk tale is from, seals have been hunted for their skins, and also for their meat. People have used seal skins to make fur coats and other clothing. Seal-hunting and seal products are not allowed in some countries anymore, but the country of Canada still lets hunters kill seals. Every year, hundreds of thousands of seals are killed, and most of them are just a few months old.
You may wish to show Canada on the globe or world map, if you have one.
Write or post the word "Empathy" on the Moral Compass poster and ask if anyone can read the word. After someone has identified the word, ask if anyone knows what that word means. Describe the word:
Empathy is the ability to step into someone else's shoes, to imagine what they feel, with respect and caring. When you use empathy, you see things and feel things the way another person might see or feel them - someone who is not you.
Offer an example that children this age can relate to. You can ask:
- Have you ever felt sad because someone else was sad?
- Have you ever thought about how someone else would feel if they weren't invited to your party, and decided to invite them, even if you didn't really want to?
Tell the group:
The story you are going to hear is about someone who learns how the seals feel when they are hunted and hurt. Learning how the seals feel wakes up the character's empathy.
When everyone has had a chance to look at the object, have the last person put it back in the story basket or on the altar, if you are using one.
Now remove the chime, rain stick or other instrument from the story basket. Tell/remind the children that every time you tell a story in Moral Tales, you will use this sound 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.
In a calm voice, say, in your own words:
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:
Now you are ready to listen. 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.
Including All Participants
If anyone in the group is unable to hold or pass items, or cannot see the items, make sure you or a child in the group offers the person a chance to see and touch each object, as needed. When a picture is being passed, describe it to a child with blindness or limited eyesight while they are holding it.
Some people do not feel safe closing their eyes when they are in a group. If any children resist, respect their resistance and suggest that they find a single point of focus to look at instead.
If you have a basket of fidget objects for children who will listen and learn more effectively with something in their hands, make the fidget object basket available during this activity. For a full description of fidget objects and guidance on using them, see Leader Resources. Note, "The Wounded Seal" is more interactive than some of the other stories in Moral Tales; children who ordinarily use fidget objects may not need them.