Science to Stories: Curriculum Guide

Science to Stories: Curriculum Guide

Story, because it first and foremost engages the heart and imagination of the listener, has the power to draw them through a tale that can teach facts and engage them sympathetically in new perspectives. There are many ways to create a story that teaches. This is only a single model. (Cynthia the Caterpillar, another story built on this model, is offered at the end of this guide.)

1. State clearly what you want your listener to learn, There is a form of Buddhism in which the practitioner chants for what they want. It enjoys a high rate of success. Knowing what you want puts you halfway towards getting it. This is also true with a story that teaches. List the facts or theory that you want to impart. Be specific and detailed.

A mathematical concept or process in the sciences must be completely delineated, as the process will usually become the plot of the tale.

With this in mind, you will find yourself choosing a much smaller and more specific topic than ‘Environmental Degradation of the Planet.’ For the sake of demonstration, let’s say you want to teach: “What is a Fossil Fuel and why must we stop burning them” The facts we collect and integrate will depend upon who our audience is. Obviously, more detail and sophistication is desirable for older audiences.

Let’s list what we know.

What is a fossil fuel? A simple, clear definition can be found at: (below is a non-scientist’s interpretation).

Basically, prior to the era of dinosaurs, about 300 million (give or take 50 million on either side) years ago, the world was a very swampy place. It was the Carboniferous Period. When trees and plants and critters died, they sunk to the bottom of the swamps and degraded into a spongy material called peat. Sand and clay fell on the peat, and on top of that, more sand and clay, and on top of that, more sand and clay fell, and on top of that, more sand and clay fell, and on top of that, more sand and clay fell… All this sand and clay started to form into rocks, and heavy rocks squeezed and squeezed down on the peat until all the water was squeezed out, and that is what became gas, crude oil, and coal! That’s a long, slow process, and during it a great deal of carbon became isolated and condensed into the gas, coal, or oil.

What happens when you burn fossil fuels?

Remember the name of the era when the oil, coal, and gas started to be created? There is a good reason it’s called the Carboniferous Period, because whenever you burn crude oil, gas, or coal it releases carbon dioxide into the air. Carbon Dioxide is a powerful greenhouse gas.

It is called a greenhouse gas because, like a greenhouse, it keeps heat inside whatever container it is surrounding. The container greenhouse gases surround is the planet earth.

Okay, these are very simple definitions, but they answer the basic question. More detailed information will be needed, but it will change based on your target audience, so we will get to that soon!

2. Create Your Main Character.

Good stories are like mirrors and windows. Your listeners need a mirror of themselves, before they are willing to enter a window into the unknown. That mirror can be as idiosyncratic as a protagonist who gets a tic between their left eyelid and eyebrow when they contemplate failing a test, or as universal as a 4-year-old insisting on dressing herself, but we need to recognize ourselves at the point of embarkation. You can’t take someone on a journey unless you start where they are. Create a character that will engage your listeners, and they will follow you anywhere. Only you know who your listeners will be. Create a primary character that will be a mirror of some aspect of their concerns, issues, physicality, verbal stylings,relationships, or life struggles.

For instance, a character that would draw pre K-1st grade students could be someone mastering basic self care and newly venturing into the world beyond their home and family.

A character for a story that you want to appeal to grades 6-8 might be knee-deep in peer pressure and newly aware of community standards as established by peers, gangs, church, school, or their neighborhood. Create a character your listeners will want to identify with. Then, that character can take them on a journey of exploration.

Let’s create a character for 5th/6th graders

General Characteristics:

-The child is growing in independence from the family – Friendships and friendship networks are becoming more important.

-Peer pressure becomes a motivating force both socially and physically.

-Children search for and want to take on responsibilities and master tasks.

Foscil the Fossil: Foscil begins as a happy, conformist homebody who goes to sleep with her family. When she wakes up 300 million years later, she has a hard time recognizing herself or her family. Like any 12-year-old (1 human year = 25,000,000 fossil years), her physiology has changed. To continue conforming, as she did in childhood, is no longer a desirable option when her world is rudely interrupted by mountaintop removal.

She creates relationships with the other chunks of coal nearby. She becomes an activist in their desire for self-determination. In keeping with the audience age, you could have Foscil and the other chunks of coal play with their new freedom, but look back for the protection of their families. Her determination grows as she sees and feels what is happening to her new friends, and how, when they are rudely pulled from their beds and burned, their CO2 becomes caught in the atmosphere, which radiates heat, and given the mountaintop removal, there is less and less here to absorb that heat! She finds her strength and leads the strange species (humans) to discover a renewable energy source.

(A fuller version of this tale is at the end of the guide.)

3. All the process you are exploring become the plot of the story.

4. Create a story ending that emphasizes your objective.

An example of this process from  A-Z:

A number of years ago I was hired as an artist-in-residence for a Massachusetts elementary school.  The beleaguered 3rd grade teacher already had 8 armloads of teaching objectives she was required to cover, and did not look forward to an interloper stealing away her class time.  I didn’t look forward to an antithetical relationship and so asked:  “What do you have to cover in the next few months?” When she came to the natural sciences and stated, “How caterpillars metamorphose into moths and butterflies, and the differences between them,” I thought, “Bingo!  This is a job for a good story.“  There is nothing that can’t be taught more effectively through a narrative that engages the cognitive through the heart and imagination.*

You can always find a folktale that touches on the learning you hope to impart, but why not create one that will perfectly address your objectives?  It is not that difficult, and following is an outline and model of how to do it.

Articulate exactly what you want to teach.  General ideas lend themselves to ineffectual generalized stories.  For example:


I want to teach about the planetary system


-I want to teach about the order of the planets in our solar system

-I want to teach about the effects of the sun’s rays on the atmosphere of each planet.

-I want to teach about the gravitational pull that the sun exerts and how it keeps each planet moving in its own orbit.


To teach about metamorphosis


-To teach how Mayflies develop from an aquatic nymph into a winged, air-bound insect

-To teach how both moths and butterflies emerge from caterpillars, and how to identify their similarities and differences

-To teach how some insects pass through a larval stage, then enter an inactive state called pupa, or chrysalis, and finally emerge as adults.

Trust that when you are creating a story, choosing specific teaching objective will enable you to shape a sharper and more engaging tale that will lead children to an authentic desire to learn more about the subject. The specific can lead to the general!

2.  Research and record every fact that you want to teach.  You may not be able to include them all, but have them available for your story making.  If you don’t know exactly what you want to teach, then chances are that little will be communicated!

I went to the school library, took out a few 3rd grade-level books about moths and butterflies, checked with the teacher, and made a list of all the facts that the curriculum required.  These included:

-How to identify a caterpillar

-How a caterpillar turns into a moth or butterfly

-The differences and similarities between butterflies and moths

3.  Create the world of your story.  This is when you start to have fun.  Since you have a teaching objective, use the reality of the environment you are exploring, but allow it to be big, vital, and filled with anthropomorphic details that will enable your listeners to identify with and enter it. Purists will claim that trees don’t talk, and caterpillars don’t have personalities.  Much in the same spirit as children understand that fairy tales are metaphors, wolves don’t don nightgowns, and birds cannot give you all you need for success at the ball, they understand that you are making art.

In the case of the caterpillar story, the woods are its setting. (Other, more detailed, examples below)**

The Story of Cynthia the Caterpillar

Deep in the woods, there lived two caterpillars, eating, eating eating, the leaves of trees and eating, eating, eating the leaves of flowers, and arguing!

What you do is take that natural environment and bring it into the realm of understanding for your specific listeners. The above works for third graders.  If I were shaping the story for older students, the ecology of the specific wooded area would come alive (with the types of trees that grow there looking down on the creatures that dwell there) until we felt at home in that place.

4. Create Your Primary Character(s).  Here is where you, as an educator, have a huge advantage. You know your students. You know their cognitive, social/emotional, physical, and curricular strengths and challenges.  With this information you have the unique opportunity to create characters with whom they will identify. (more examples below)***


For my story I needed two characters (the eventual moth and butterfly), and wanted ones that would resonate for my 3rd grade target audience.  I went and watched them during recess in a playground, and found the main players.

Please feel free to make up tunes or rhythms for the two sung parts of this story.  Cognitively, it is always useful to switch presentational modalities.  They provide gentle jolts of engagement.  Also, music travels through different neural pathways than the spoken word, and often children with spoken language challenges will be able to better enter and hold on to a story or a lesson when even a part of it is offered through melody.  It works well to break your group in half, teaching each one of the songs.


The Story of Cynthia the Caterpillar

Deep in the woods, there lived two caterpillars, eating, eating eating, the leaves of trees and

Eating, eating, eating the leaves of flowers, and arguing!

 CYNTHIA: (In Character: Feminine, faux-sophisticated, and rapturous)

Hello, my name is Cynthia and today I am a caterpillar.  But I know my fate.  I know my destiny.  Someday I shall be a butterfly!  You know, only 1 out of every 5 of us caterpillars become butterflies.  Only 2 out of 10…only 10 out of … oh never mind!  Just look at them, out in the daylight, like all civilized creatures, with their stunning orange and yellow and gold and black wings. And they are so polite, always resting their wings demurely upon their backs when they land.  They have those fashionable, long, thin bodies and pointed antenna.  Ah, they are so smart looking.  Yes, it is my fate.  It is my destiny.


I want to be a butterfly

Soaring through the sun filled sky

My wings perched neatly on my behind

I want to be a butterfly.


CHUCK: (Think retired boxer from the South Bronx) Hey Cynthia!  Cynthia!  I’s talkin’ to yous.


CYNTHIA: Oh dear!  That is Chuck caterpillar.  He is a low-grade, gross, and disgusting character.  Pay him no mind.


CHUCK: Hey Cynthia, face it. Yous gonna be a moth. 4 outta every 5 of us’n caterpillars turn into moths.  8 out 10, 40 outta 50.  Nothin’ wrong with bein’ a moth Cynthia.  So what if their bodies are rounder and furrier, and their antennas is shorter and kinda fuzzy.  I like that their wings are gray and black and gray and some white and gray and just hang out at their sides.  No pretensions, ya know what I mean?  And they live at night!  Lot more fun at night, Cynthia!  Face it.


Moth, moth, you’re gonna be a moth.

Take your flight in the night (2 claps)

Hang out by an open light.

Moth, moth, you’re gonna be a moth.


CYNTHIA: Chuck, you are disgusting!

5.  Plot Development:  The joy and ease of creating stories to teach the natural sciences is that the plot is given.  It is the process you want your students to learn about.

In this case, the metamorphosis of a caterpillar. I want my listeners to learn how the larva grows, follow its eventual journey into a chrysalis or cocoon and its emergence as a moth or butterfly, all the while reinforcing the basic differences between these two Lepidoptera.  The fascinating cell reorganization, imaginal discs, and the transformative digestive process within the cocoon or chrysalis would have to wait for an adaptation for middle school students!  Simply put, you are hooking your listeners on characters in which they can see themselves and pulling those characters through the facts and process you want to teach about.


All day, the butterflies would flutter from flower to puddle to old tossed-away apples, their probosces drinking in nectar, while their beautiful wings of orange and yellow and gold and black delicately rest on the back of their long, slim bodies. During their infrequent rests, they would discuss the up-and-coming generation of caterpillars.

 Bernice Butterfly: Oh dear, look at them.  So many caterpillars, so few to join ‘our’ ranks.

 Betty Butterfly:  Who do you think deserves to be 1 out of 5, 2 out of 10, 12 out of 50?

 Bernice: That’s 10 out of 50 dear.  Math isn’t your subject, is it? Those 10 will be blessed! With our elegant extended antennae, our diurnal habits, and our long, stunning bodies, we are the best. Which of them deserves to join the best? Let’s hear it, caterpillars!

Caterpillars: (singing)

I want to be a butterfly

Soaring through the sun filled sky

My wings perched neatly on my behind

I want to be a butterfly.

All night the moths would gather around the glowing light bulb at Joe’s Bar and Grill, reviewing the next generation.

Mortie Moth:  Hey, look at all of ‘em!  And almost every one of those lucky buggers gets to be one of us. 4 in 5, 8 in 10, 40 in 50.  Math is my subject.

Mack Moth:  Hey, nothing wrong with having a rounder furrier body.  Keeps ya warmer.  I like my short antennae.  They don’t get caught on stuff.  The wings hangin’ at our sides…

Mortie:  Hey man, that’s just honest.  You know like, here I am, all of me.

Mack: Yeah, and nocturnal insects know how to party!  Ouch!  I burnt my wing on that light bulb!

Mortie:  Hey, just saw someone hang up a cloth coat.  I think it’s dinnertime! How’s about our song before we go?

MOTHS: (singing)

Moth, moth, you’re gonna be a moth.

Take your flight in the night (2 claps)

Hang out by an open light.

Moth, moth, you’re gonna be a moth.

(Now you can pick and choose from the facts and processes, turning those that work for your age group into part of the story.)

Every day Cynthia and Chuck would argue.

CYNTHIA:  Chuck, I know my fate.  I know my destiny.  I will be 1 out of 5, 2 out of 10, 12 out of ……….

CHUCK:  That’s 10 outta 50.  Math ain’t your strong suit!

Cynthia:  No, Chuck, beauty, grace, elegance…those are my strong suits.

CHUCK:  Looks like you’ve eaten right through 2 or 3 of your strong suits already!

CYNTHIA:  I don’t understand it!  I eat modestly…

CHUCK:  But constantly.

CYNTHIA:  And then at some point my leotard just slips off! 

CHUCK:  That’s called molting.

CYNTHIA:  That sounds disgusting.

CHUCK:  We eat.  We outgrow our skin.  We shed our skinny skin, so we can grow a bigger one and eat even more! I think I’m on my 3rd or 4th.  You like my new one? 

CYNTHIA: Disgusting!  Anyway, mine is much nicer!  Look, I am striped!

CHUCK:  So am I, and so are convicts’ clothes!

CYNTHIA:  Well, look closely.  I have 13 body segments!

CHUCK: So do I.

CYNTHIA:  Well, I have 3 pairs of angled legs and 5 pairs of straight ones!

CHUCK: So do I, and so do the rockettes!

CYNTHIA:  My caterpillar coat has a lovely soft fuzz to it!

CHUCK:  Mine too.

CYNTHIA: Oh, Chuck!  I know who I am meant to be.  A long, lean, pointy-antennaed beauty with wings of gold and yellow and orange and black that sit demurely behind me as I suck nectar from my proboscis….

CHUCK:  Just face it Cynthia, you’s gonna be one of the 4 outta 5, 8 outta 10, 40 outta 50.

There is no dishonor in bein’ a:


Moth, moth, you’re gonna be a moth.

Take your flight in the night (2 claps)

Hang out by an open light.

Moth, moth, you’re gonna be a moth.


 Sometimes the creatures of the forest would come just to hear them argue.  It was more fun than a water fight in the pond.

CYNTHIA:  I know my fate. I know my destiny.  Oh, just look at them dating.

CHUCK: Dating? You messin’ with me?

CYNTHIA: Of course not!  When a butterfly boy sees a beautifully colored butterfly girl, he will do a dance to impress her, and if they like one another’s aroma…

CHUCK: Ach, the moth boy just (sound like a big raspberry on someone’s skin) lets out a smell. A moth girl shows up and if she digs the smell, they do that voodoo that they do so well!

CYNTHIA: Chuck, has anyone mentioned that you have no class at all? 


I want to be a butterfly

Soaring through the sun filled sky

My wings perched neatly on my behind

I want to be a butterfly.

CHUCK: Face it, baby:


Moth, moth, you’re gonna be a moth.

Take your flight in the night (2 claps)

Hang out by an open light.

Moth, moth, you’re gonna be a moth.

6.  Closing Your Tale:  Once you have taken your characters through the various processes or stages that you want to teach about, it is time to end the tale.  For this, nature provides! (More examples below)****

Here is what happens to Cynthia and Chuck:

Life moves on, and after constant fighting and eating, eating and fighting, Cynthia and Chuck left their many molted skins behind and started toward a tree. Of course they argued the entire time:

 CYNTHIA: I know my fate, I know my destiny.  I will have a long lean body.

 CHUCK: You’ll have a furry fat one!

 CYNTHIA: I will have lovely pointed antennae.

 CHUCK: Ha, they’ll be short and featherlike!

 CYNTHIA: My stunning wings of gold and yellow and orange and black will perch delicately upon my back when I am drinking from my proboscis!

CHUCK:  Hey, you’ll look great in big old wings of grey and brown.  They’ll help you blend in at night, when you’ll be flyin’!

 CYNTHIA: Never, never!  I will never be a nocturnal creature. I was born for the sun, the beauty, the glamour of Butterflydom.  I shall be 1 out of 5, 2 out of 10, uh… how many out of 50?

CHUCK: 10, Cynthia.  You really should catch up on your math.

 CYNTHIA:  I won’t need it.  I’ll be beautiful!


I want to be a butterfly

Soaring through the sun filled sky

My wings perched neatly on my behind

I want to be a butterfly.

CHUCK:  So sad!  Oh well, see you in mothdom.

Now, if you looked closely you could see them making their way to a tree. One edged its way up the bark and wove its sleeping bag against the trunk, a cocoon.  The other edged its way up the trunk and out to a branch where it wove its sleeping bag, a chrysalis. Then with the earth holding them safely in her protection, both caterpillars went to sleep.  A loud snore coming from the cocoon and gentle breathing from the chrysalis until, whoosh, they turned into something no one could recognize, a liquid that is reshaping, repurposing itself for a new life. *****  Even the colors of the cocoon and chrysalis changed in that week-and-a-half, until one day you could see them trembling, shaking.  Look at the cocoon. Breaking through its sleeping bag is a strange, folded, bent creature.  It presses out its proboscis and takes in a breath of life and with that pushes new liquids within it to…wooooo, fill the rounded furry body.  Whoosh, fill the gray, brown, black wings that hang at its side, woo, fill the short, fluffy antennae.

 CYNTHIA:  Oh dear.  Short furry body, feathery antennae, unbecoming wings of gray and brown and black just hanging there. I guess Chuck was right.  I am 4 out 5, 8 or 10,…how many out of 50? Maybe I should have paid better attention to the math. Well, it’s daytime, I might as well go to sleep.  (Snores)

In the meantime the chrysalis was also trembling and shaking.  Breaking through its sleeping bag is a strange folded, bent creature.  It presses out its proboscis and takes in a breath of life and with that pushes new liquids within it to…wooooo, fill the long lean body.  Woooo, fill the orange, yellow, and gold wings slowly. They are clearly enlarging as they rest elegantly on the creature’s back. Whoosh, fill the long, graceful, pointed antennae.

CHUCK:  (Looking around)  Hey, Cindy, Cindy, guess what! Look at me!  Long lean bod, pointed antenna; just take a gander at them pretty wings on my back!  Cindy!  (Looking down) Cindy! (spies her) HA HA HA.

The moral of the story is that in this natural world all things continue to change.

Let’s all sing both of the songs:


I want to be a butterfly

Soaring through the sun filled sky

My wings perched neatly on my behind

I want to be a butterfly.


Moth, moth, you’re gonna be a moth.

Take your flight in the night (2 claps)

Hang out by an open light.

Moth, moth, you’re gonna be a moth.

*Yes, this is a generalization.  If you are a fan of Gardner’s learning modalities, you will note that children with strengths in logical, math/science approaches can flourish in a fact filled curriculum.

This approach is for all the rest.

** You can see how any organic process you want to teach, from the vaporization of water, to photosynthesis could be a plot, and that the story could easily take place in the environment that hosts it.  For vaporization you could choose a New Hampshire lake. For photosynthesis, that tale could take place within the cell structure of a leaf. These are dynamic places, and only require a human bridge to bring listeners into it.

Dewy Drop was the 3076th child of his mother, Squam Lake.  As you might guess, he was never lonely.  Swimming along with so many brothers and sisters makes for a full life.  On top of that, his mom was a gracious hostess to whitefish, yellow perch, slimy sculpins, and so many others.  Dewy loved when they swam right by him.  It tickled and he would rush away and then hope for it to happen again. (You start to see how the ecology of the area can be integrated easily.)

*** For instance, kindergarteners are still reaching for basic physical autonomy and independence.  If you were teaching about mayflies, your main character might be Normy Nymph, who everyone treats like a baby!  He’s only allowed to eat stuff that grows on the bottom of the rock where he lives, and he’s not allowed to leave that place!  Your students will identify with and be deeply invested when Normy, for the first time, with great courage, starts to crawl away from that rock on a warm spring day. Despite the warnings of other creatures, and his own fears, he is drawn toward the water’s surface…

**** What happens to sad Dewy Drop once he has been evaporated into a cloud? Missing his water family, he floats gently in another form.  Airily, he calls other lost drops to join him until there are so many that precipitation occurs!  Shocked by returning to his original form and finding himself and new friends sliding down a mountain, going faster and faster, you can imagine his joy and relief when he finds himself back in the lake he came from, reunited with family and friends!

You can do this with hundreds of organic cycles.  Simply allow the authentic science to guide your plot, and have your characters, in the fullness of the personality you have developed, make the journey to its logical end.

***** There are fantastic videos available on the internet of this process, as well as more detailed descriptions of what is occurring.  Remember, this is the 3rd grade version!

This gorgeous video shows the entire life cycle of the Monarch:

Great pictures of process:

A First-Person Sharing

This gives your listeners an intimate relationship with the protagonist.

For instance, Colby the Cow could tell his story of how he was raised and fed and his memories of his wilder progenitors. You’d think twice about the hamburger in front of you after Colby’s sad tale. Simon the Steer could tell about how his relatives used to roam the prairies, eating and traveling with the seasons, but now he is restricted to one small area. This would be a story about desertification and how herding practices exacerbate it.

A Third-Person Telling of a True Tale

This allows a broader perspective.

Chip Osborne of Marblehead ran a garden center and both sold and used all the agrichemicals  that his education considered to be the bedrock of farming and gardening. When he discovered that his beloved English Springer Spaniel was riddled with cancerous tumors, and then her pup died, as well, from the same malady, he became suspicious of chemicals, used for only 40 years, and not longitudinally tested.

Both dogs slept in the soil that collected runoff from fungicides. The story of how Chip became a national advocate for organic land maintenance is quite compelling. He changed the policies of the town, and is working towards organic turf maintenance for the nation.

A Fairy Tale Motif that uses archetypes to carry themes

This approach separates the good guys from the bad in a safe frame where the protagonist much reach deep into themself to achieve their goal.

Check out: bones-structure-of-a-fairy-tale/

A Folk Tale Motif

These tend to be stories about how to ‘act right’ within your culture.

Check out Doug Lipman’s articles:

The Process becomes the Plot

Sculpt characters from key elements and then pull those characters through the evolution, process, life cycle, etc. that you want your listeners to understand. This frame allows you to make the organic process that you want students to learn become the plot of the tale.

An Allegory

When an event becomes too painful or threatening, an allegory becomes the safe way to explore it. Think about Orwell’s Animal Farm. You can translate very difficult issues via allegory.

The world of the sky gods looks down on planet earth, and from there they can scoff at all the things that the Bobeings (their term for ‘humans’) do….

I am sure you can think of other story styles that might better suit your material.

For our story about greenhouse gases, I would choose a combination of these to tell this story. So that I have the flexibility to show the broader world at any time, I will tell in the third person by using a polymorphic process. A forest slated for cutting or a river that is constantly flooding nearby towns and villages from the mining runoff could both voice their frustration and sorrow.

A frame requires an opening, a shape/plot for the story, and an ending. If it feels artificial to enter the process with a full frame predetermined, then allow the plot and characters to create it. What is essential for a teaching story is that there be (a) character(s) that listeners can identify with, action/conflict, and an ending that offers closure. For these tales, I hope that ending includes an appropriate call to action at the students’ level of ability.

A Fuller Foscil the Fossil

Foscil had been happy to be in the middle of her brothers and sisters as they sank into the warm, welcoming swamp. They had always done everything as a family, grown roots, a trunk, bark. Their neighbors, the Ferns, had lived peaceably side-by-side with Foscil’s family. As a matter of fact, Foscil and Feddy, one of the kids in the Fern family, used to wave and splash the swamp water at each other.

When the giant dragonfly that Foscil’s highly educated mom insisted on calling a Meganeura flew by, Foscil and Freddy would giggle as its wings tickled them, and they’d scream in terror when the monster millipede with 30 pairs of legs crawled towards them! Foscil’s mom explained that all the oxygen in the air allowed creatures to reach such sizes, but Foscil and Freddy just liked to scream! They were children and life was good. They hardly noticed sinking deeper into swamp. Swayed soothingly by the water families, the Echinos and Crinies (for older students, provide more details about the era) one day, she and Freddy and their families just fell asleep.. They slept and slept. They slept while sand and clay fell on them, but those just felt like big old blankets, and the more blankets on them, the sounder they slept. They never even noticed the couple million years that it took the sand and clay to form into rocks. I mean, they were sleeping! Okay, to tell you the truth, Foscil, Freddy, and their families would have slept forever, but after a mere 300 million years, give or take 50 million, they were rudely, and I mean rudely, awakened!

This section describes how frightened Foscil was when the earth started shaking and breaking and light dawned for the first time in millions of years:

She looks at herself and finds that she is barely recognizable, as she now has the qualities of coal.

With everything shaking and breaking and loudly splitting, she looks frantically for her family and Freddy. She hears Freddy, also somewhat terrified at both his new form and the rupturing world around him. They roll towards one another, promise they will help look for each other’s families, and decide to stick together.

They experience a mountaintop removal from the inside-out. Their feelings and observations offer a new vantage point on this type of mining, and the strange creatures who ripped open their happy, sleep-inducing home. Their determination to stay together motivates the plot.

They find themselves, along with tons of coal, being transported. Foscil and Freddy try to get to know who these lumps of coal had been back in the day. Most of them simply conform to the expectation and go willingly, they know not where. Foscil and Freddy hypothesize about where they are going and what will happen to them. Do they want to go home or do they want an adventure?

They arrive at The Mitchell Plant in Pennsylvania. Foscil falls off the conveyor belt while the others are transported into the plant. It’s hot and getting hotter. She calls for Freddy, but he is gone. She watches helplessly until she sees smoke coming from a stack. She hears a voice and realizes that it’s Freddy. It’s coming from the smoke leaving the smoke stack. She wants to know when he can come back and play with her. He explains that he can’t come back. Most of him was burned to make energy so the beings could make their houses warm, and run their power mowers, and clothes-dryers, and air conditioners. Foscil is surprised that there is anything left to him. They burnt him so that the beings could have his energy from all those years sleeping to make their houses warm, and run their power mowers, clothes dryers, and air conditioners. He explains that what is left of him is a gas called carbon dioxide and some other stuff he cannot pronounce but makes him itch and scratch. He heard the beings who came to measure him now call it NOx (Nitrogen oxides ) and PM10 (particulate matter), and they get into the lungs of beings and make them cough and get sick. He was just a fern, and then a sleeping thing, but now he is hurting beings and the planet. He’s not happy!. She wants to know how long he’ll be that silly gas and when he can come back down. Alas, Freddy is not happy about his longevity in this form either. He must stay in this form for thousands of years. He won’t disappear, but she can always call up to him. She notes how hot it is. Freddy is really sorry, but that is his job now. He explains how he keeps longer-wave (infrared) energy (heat) from escaping. He can’t do anything about it!

Foscil is frightened and figures out how bad this is for the bed, the earth, that protected her for so many years.

5. Ending the Tale

Responsible storytelling does not leave children in a state of fear or despair.

Here is a possible ending for Foscil’s story:

A worker kicks her out of his path and she lands under an old window. It’s even hotter there! She thinks about using this as a way to make heat without burning her family, but she can’t do anything alone. A little girl is walking with her family and breaks off to run over and grab Foscil. The girl feels the heat from the glass. Her mother calls to her. She announces her find as “hot black stuff.” The mother, much like Foscil’s, explains solar energy and how to capture it. Our story ends with the little girls tossing Foscil in the air and catching her while imagining thousand of solar panels replacing the destroyed mountain and power plant.

For Instance:

After the story about Foscil students could brainstorm ways to use less fossil fuels in their school and in their lives. They could research renewable options. This could move the discussion into their science classes where they study and create models of solar panels or wind turbines.

Every age can respond with some action:

Kindergarteners can give up juice in individual boxes and straws and ask parents to invest in pitchers and cups for the classroom.

Fifth graders can start a paper recycling campaign within the school

Eighth graders can organize for reusable eating ware in their cafeteria, lawns being transformed into vegetable gardens, or a ‘walk to school’ campaign.

Eleventh graders can learn about the legislative system that helps or hinders environmental responsibility and activate around it.

To order any of Judth’s stories:

The Story Store: CDs, DVDs, Classes

Please explore Judith’s web site: summer class: