A Tree Grows
I use this lesson with Kindergarten and Jr. Kindergarten classes, often as the first lesson in which we use our whole bodies to create drama. (I usually start out using hands and face alone.) It is a narrative pantomime--a story which is told by the leader and enacted by the students individually. I start with this activity partly because it allows a very full range of movement and physical sensation while keeping the students anchored to their respective spots on the floor. The main focus here is on creating real sensory experience from the imagination. Children really enjoy it, and it seems to connect for them on a very visceral level. Here it is:
(Be sure to narrate this story slowly enough, and with appropriate pauses, so that the students are able to fully experience their own physical discoveries as they enact the story.)
Everyone find your own personal space on the floor and make yourself as small as possible.
You are an apple seed, crammed tightly into your hard seed pod, and buried under the cold ground. It is winter, and you are barely awake. Above you, snow covers the ground. It is totally dark under the ground.
Now it is spring. The earth around you is growing a little warmer, and you start to feel more awake. The snow above you melts and the water soaks into the earth around you. It feels good. The earth feels warmer, and you seem to be able to pull energy out of the soil.
It is time to come out of your seed pod. You feel strong and energetic. Using all your strength, you push up against your seed pod and break through, like a bird breaks out of the egg. You reach upwards into the warm earth with your tendrils. The earth around you is moist, and you soak in the life-giving moisture. You don't know why, but you know you want to push upwards.
Finally, with one great push, you emerge from the soil and see, for the first time, the SUN!
The sun's energy flows into you and you feel stronger and stronger. You stretch upwards and outwards until you are a healthy seedling. The gentle spring rains nourish and refresh you. Just take a moment to enjoy it.
(Take a longer pause here.)
Now let's move ahead a few years. You have grown into a strong young sapling--a tree about the size of a young person. You have beautiful green leaves that soak up the sun and make you strong. But you want to grow taller. You want to be a tree. So you summon all your energy and you push out and up. As the years go by you become a strong, handsome apple tree. You stand proud in the sun and enjoy your own strength and beauty.
Now it is fall. You have grown succulent, nourishing apples all over your strong branches. The apples contain seeds which might someday become new apple trees. The apples are heavy. Your branches are strong, but there are so many apples. You feel weighed down. You feel as if your branches might break.
Here come some children. You can't talk to them, but you know they are coming for the apples. They have bushel baskets. They are laughing and singing. The children pick your apples, and your branches feel light. You know they will take them away and eat them. You know they will throw away the seeds, and that some of those seeds might grow to be new apple trees.
Almost all of your apples are gone. But you know you will grow more next year. You feel grateful to those children. You hope they will enjoy the apples.
(Take a longer pause here.)
Now it is winter. All of your leaves have fallen. But you know you will grow more next spring. Now it is time to rest. You rest.
After the story is done, I ask my students questions about the experience. I focus on "how did it feel" questions, and when, as invariably happens, the students have clear answers to these questions, I use this to demonstrate how powerful is the imagination. Below are some sample questions. (Note: In each case, the first question is the important one. I ask that question and get as many original responses as I can. Only if necessary do I then coach by asking the follow-up questions.)
How did you feel when you first broke through the seed pod? Who felt a sense of accomplishment? Did anyone feel a little afraid?
What was it like when you first saw the sun? How many were happy? How many were proud?
How did it feel to become a big strong tree?
How did you feel when the children picked your apples?
Most of you felt a very strong emotion when you first saw the sun. How is that possible, since we were all right here in the classroom and the sun doesn't even shine in here?
What part of your mind did you use to see the sun?
Did you know your imagination was so powerful?
(Clearly these are only a few of the questions you could ask.)