Mythical lore

“Burning ice, biting flame; that is how life began,” I tell the captivated grade four class.

They have just finished creating their very own books out of a sheet of card paper, a stack of paper, and some staples. As I guided them step-by-step through the process of creating their books, I talked about creation stories, about the Vikings, and about their creation story.

“We are going to learn about what the Vikings and the Norse people believed, and the tales of their Gods.” I tell them. They are captivated, excited. Reflecting on it later I realize that they were so excited because I was excited.

With a few minutes left to the end of class I begin telling them the story of creation as told by Norse Mythology. As I speak, I draw on the board with blue and red chalk.

“In the North there was freezing ice” I tell them as I draw ice in the North.
“This world was called Niflheim.” I write the name in icy letters.
“In the South, there was raging flame and fire” I draw flames licking and reaching from the bottom of the board.
“This world was called Muspel” and I write the name in flaming letters just above the flames.

Just then the bell rings, and I continue:
“Next class we will learn about what happened when these two worlds of ice and fire came together, and how the world was created and formed.”

As I gather their books they are all speculating and guessing at how they think the world will be created.

“Is it the big bang?” asks one student.
“No” I reply, “this is a different creation story.”

As I leave the class I am smiling, it is such a good feeling to be engaged with them and know that they are soaking everything up, using their imaginations and learning to be creative, simply by doing things like creating their own books, and listening to myths and lore that have been passed down for thousands and thousands of generations.
History grips me; it excites me. I must admit however, I can remember very few of the dates and events that I learned from a textbook. The history that has stuck with me is the history that has been told through stories, stories that I can relive within my imagination; those are the stories I remember.

Later in grade two I left the class feeling a similar sense of joy and with a beaming smile on my face that I wore all the way back to the staff room. I have found the secret of captivating children and of getting them engaged, and EVERY student, not just a handful. It lies in memorizing the story, and telling it from heart in your own words. It is easy for them to shut themselves off or become distracted when I read a story from a book, regardless of how enthusiastic I am, it is never the same as me telling it from my heart, making eye contact with each of them and keeping them engaged. But I can hardly claim to have discovered this secret, people have been doing it since the beginning go time, it is simply that we seem to be forgetting about its insurmountable value amidst our frantic and hurried lives of the twenty-first century and our attempts to make learning more ‘efficient and methodic’.

When they really become engaged is when I enjoy telling the story as much as they do listening, and I do! I get to read, study, and retell stories about fairy’s, talking animals, mythical Gods, giants and dwarfs, what more could I ask for?

After telling the story I was looking at the drawings from the story that they were drawing in their books, when I did a double take looking at one boys drawing. It was incredible, the page was full with colour and it was so incredibly and stunningly imaginative on so many levels. I knew immediately that he had soaked up the entire story with his thirsty imagination. It made me so happy. Their drawings are changing; it is such an incredible gift to have a front row seat in their transformation and to be a part of it.