Perspective Storytelling

Activity Summary

Students will visit a specific ecosystem and choose a biotic organism that they see, hear or find evidence of. They will imagine this organism’s perspective and write a story from its point of view.

Introduction:

Begin by reading them a narrative. I am going to read you a story that is told from the point of view of something biotic in this ecosystem. Listen closely to see if you can figure out what is telling the story. (substitute student work if you have it)
“I am high up in the air connected to a branch. I am surrounded by leaves but I’m not a leaf. My view is of the forest canopy- there are treetops all around me. Now I feel something- a cool breeze that is making me flutter like a flag. The wind is making me lose my grip on this branch. I can barely hold on and now I have let go! I am a dancer twirling in the air. Still spinning, I descend through the branches like a helicopter all the way to the forest floor. Now I think I will take a rest on this bed of leaves and sleep until spring.”
Discuss who the storyteller might be. Ask for ideas about the definition of the word perspective.
Next we will each choose something biotic from this ecosystem and imagine a story from the perspective of that organism. Ask for definitions of this word and tie it to the word biotic. Ask students to consider the following things before they write their stories:

  • How is this organism’s perspective different from your own? Is it big or small, high up in the air or low to the ground, stationary or mobile, etc.
  • How does it experience the other abiotic and cultural elements of this ecosystem? Write at least one cultural or abiotic element into the story. (for example: the wind blows the seedpod off of the tree)
  • Think about the things your organism needs to survive. Knowing this can help you formulate your story.
Age group: 4th-6th Venue/s: Any specific ecosystem.
Materials: Pencils Paper Writing surface Field guides and resource books Colored pencils

Time: 1 hour

The Activity:

Pass out materials. Students will explore the ecosystem within the instructor’s line of sight and choose an organism to focus on- a plant, animal or fungus. Ask them to only choose an animal they can see, hear, or find evidence of in this ecosystem to avoid too many stories about charismatic mega fauna.

Provide field guides and other resource books for students who would like to find out more about their organism.

Each student will have ten minutes to sit in their own spot and write a story from the point of view of their chosen organism. Students who finish early can illustrate their story using colored pencils.
Call the group back together and ask for volunteers to read their story aloud. Point out the courage it takes to read your work in front of a group and emphasize respect. Can the group guess the different organisms? Remind students not to call out their ideas during the story and to wait until the end.

Conclusion:

Revisit the idea of an ecosystem. Since their biotic organism is part of this ecosystem, it relies on certain things to survive. Discuss their ideas about this, then discuss what in turn relies on their organism for survival.
In terms of interconnections, ask them to consider the following. What other systems are familiar? Is a tree a system? Is a play station a system? What about a group of people? How is a community like a system?
What was it like to imagine the perspective of another organism? Look around our circle. We are all human, but do we have different perspectives? Where do our perspectives come from? Why is it a positive thing to be able to imagine a friend or a classmate’s point of view?

Vocabulary

Ecosystem is a natural unit consisting of all plants, animals and micro organisms in an area functioning together with all the non living physical factors of the environment.
Organism– a living component of an ecosystem that has a complex, adaptive system of organs, which function together to form a stable whole.
Perspective– the way in which objects appear to the eye; one’s “point of view”, the context for opinions, beliefs and experiences.

Assessment and extension Ideas

  1. Give students a cultural or abiotic element/incident as a prompt. Ask them all to write perspective stories in which a lightning storm takes place in the ecosystem or a person builds a trail through an ecosystem.
  2. Instead of writing a story, draw/paint a picture from another perspective.
  3. After they have written their stories, ask them to pair and share with a neighbor to figure out how their organisms are connected in the ecosystem.
  4. Use web of life activity to illustrate interdependency.

Pictures of Practice

HoneyBee Perspective Storytelling Alternative

Summary:

Students will visit the garden and choose an organism from the honey bee ecosystem. They will imagine this organism’s perspective and write a story from its point of view.

Learning Goals:

  • Learning can be joyful, empowering and inspire a sense of wonder
  • Environment and community require many interconnected systems.
  • Students will know that living things need food, water, and air.
  • Students will know that in a given place, some organisms thrive and some don’t.
  • Students will know that organisms interact in various ways.
  • OBSERVING: Using their five senses and emotional perspectives
  • PREDICTING, ANALYZING, INTERPRETING, and REPRESENTING information using scientific, creative, and verbal approaches.
  • DEVELOPING and EXPRESSING perspective, empathy, and self-knowledge.

Lesson

Introduction:
Begin by reading them a sample narrative. I am going to tell you a story that is told from the point of view of something biotic in the honey bee ecosystem. Listen closely and see if you can identify what is telling the story.
“Although I am much smaller than my cousins in the forest, I am one of tallest plants in the IslandWood garden! Because my branches reach just above the fence I can view the compost bins and the comings and goings in the parking lot. Now I feel something- a honey bee has shoved its body into my large white flowers! This happens every spring. I can’t thank this helpful insect with words, but hopefully my nectar gift will let it know. Now the bee has escaped, covered in my yellow pollen. Thanks to this bee I will grow the large, sweet fruit in the fall that Washingtonians are so proud of.”
Discuss who may be telling the story. Ask for ideas about what other types of things may be part of the honey bee ecosystem. Students can do a five-minute garden exploration to help them generate ideas about the ecosystem.

  • What is the honey bees’ role in the ecosystem?
  • What does a honey bee need to survive? Where do these things come from?
  • Where does the honey bee ecosystem end? At the garden fence? Why do you think so?

Help students stretch their thinking to include predators, other honey bees, parasites, and humans. Once students have generated a list of possibilities, explain the activity. Next we will each choose one of the biotic elements of this ecosystem and imagine a story from its perspective. Consider the following in your story:

  • How is this organism’s perspective different from your own? Is it big or small, high up in the air or low to the ground, stationary or mobile, etc.?
  • How does it experience the other abiotic and cultural elements of this ecosystem? Write at least one cultural or abiotic element into the story. (for example: the wind blows the leaves off of the tree)
  • Think about the things your organism needs to survive. Knowing this can help you formulate your story.

The core lesson:
Pass out materials. Students will explore the garden ecosystem and choose an organism upon which to focus.

Plants that bees pollinate will be marked so that students can choose one easily. Consider that some students may not be familiar with the concept of pollination at this point, but may know that honey bees visit flowers. Students may also choose to write a story from the perspective of a bee or type of bee, a beekeeper, a parasite, or a predator. If students have studied honey bees or beekeeping and are familiar with the inside of a hive, they may have a better understanding of a bee’s perspective.

Each student will have ten or more minutes to sit in their spot and write a story from the point of view of their chosen organism. Sit-spots can help children to remain in one place. Students who finish early can illustrate their story using colored pencils.
Call the group back together and ask for volunteers to read their story aloud. Point out the courage it takes to read your work in front of a group and emphasize respect. Can the group guess the organism? Remind students not to call out their ideas during the story and to wait until the end. If there is time, allow students to show the group their organism.

Conclusions:
Revisit the idea of an ecosystem. Since their biotic organism is part of this ecosystem, it relies on certain things to survive. Discuss their ideas about this, then discuss what in turn relies on their organism for survival.

Discuss how the honey bee relates to each organism. Students who are familiar with pollination may bring this up. Did students who observed flowers see any pollination occurring? Why do honey bees visit flowers?

What was it like to imagine the perspective of another organism? Look around our circle. We are all human, but do we have different perspectives? From where do our perspectives come? Why is it a positive thing to be able to imagine a friend or classmate’s point of view?

Extension:
Tell students that the varroa mite, a parasite that reproduces in the cells where baby bees are developing, has infested the hives. The mite feeds on the “blood” of bees and spreads infection, decreasing the bee population. How might the mite change the honey bee ecosystem? How would your organism be affected?

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