Monday, April 12, 2010

The Monk's Story: Using Storytelling to Teach About Sustainable Living

One of the ways we can teach and learn about sustainable living is through the power of storytelling. There are many reasons why storytelling is such a useful tool. Stories present contemporary problems against the backdrop of another time and place. Establishing a little distance from the 'here and now' allows us to get a little perspective about our actual problem. Stories can also illicit powerful emotional responses and encourage us to act on our desires to change. Lastly, stories create an atmosphere of open communication as engaged listeners turn to one another to discuss and share their reactions.

Using The Monk's Story for Earth Scouts

The following story is set in a mountain forest village in Sri Lanka. The local monk helped this village apply principles of sustainable living in order to encourage a more peaceful, harmonious, and joyful life for the members of the community.

1. Listen to The Monk's Story.

2. After your scouts listen to the story ask them to consider the following question:

What are the six principles of sustainable living highlighted by the monk?

Harmony with nature
Doing things in a more natural way. Recycling our resources. Living and working with our environment in a sustainable way.

Quality of life
Living selfishly just for what we can get leads to misery and conflict with other people and the environment. Living selflessly to give, help and serve, leads to happiness, fulfillment and harmony with everyone and everything around us.

Self reliance
Not being dependent on other people, especially experts. Taking our own decisions, being responsible for ourselves. Participating, and doing what we feel to be the right thing.

Variety and diversity
Welcoming differences in ideas, opinions, people, etc. Respecting and valuing other people and their ideas, even though they may be different from us and our ideas. Not wishing to make things the same or uniform.

Small is beautiful
Wherever possible, organising things on a small scale gives control to ordinary people. Small groups can often get things done quickly. Large organisations are usually difficult to change, even when people's needs change.

Co-operation and peace
All around the world we see competition and aggression. People feel that they must win at something to feel good. But people can share their skills and resources. By working together co-operatively with each other and our environment, we can lead a more peaceful and satisfying life.

3. Let your scouts identify how the villagers put these principles into actions.

4. Finally, ask your scouts the following question:

Are any of these six principles relevant to sustainable living in your society?

Have your scouts make a list of one thing you, your school or community could do to follow any of the six principles in 'The Monk's Story'.

Source: Adapted from Beddes, R. and Johnson C. (eds) (1988) Only One Earth: A Multimedia Education Pack, WWF-UK, Godalming, Surrey.

Source: Adapted from UNESCO (2002)
Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future

Source: Adapted from UNESCO storytelling module by John Fien, Bernard Cox and Margaret Calder using ideas, activities and material suggested by Annette Gough, Premila Kumar and John Fien in Learning for a Sustainable Environment (UNESCO - ACEID).

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