In tandem with a Science unit on evolution and natural selection, Class VIII has been working for the last week exploring origin stories in their various forms. Over the weekend, they were asked to seek out an oral retelling of a creation myth from a different religion or culture (see Raju’s explanation of rainbows below). After sharing these in class, they invented their own alternative creation myths (Kangyur got creative with some football-playing monkeys). We read casually mind-boggling excerpts from Bill Bryson’s striking and entertaining A Short History of Nearly Everything and then told science as a story, drawing on narratives they’d just heard as Amma walked them through adorning their classroom walls with a remarkably humbling timeline of the Earth’s deep history (Rinchen Drolma on our atmosphere, coming right up!). Finally, responding to YouTube clips of Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye’s “An Origin Story” as well as the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, they narrated some of their own not-so-globally-consequential but personally-poignant instances of beginning (see Leki’s touching and evocative pair of tales below).
We concluded our unit last week with an eighth grade trip to a nearby ridge, adorned Anansi-style with a tangle of tattered prayer flags. Flask of tea and ample biscuit supplies at the ready, each member of the group shared one favorite story they had practiced dramatically delivering. It was a very neat, communally resonant outing, fascinating and fun.
Enjoy a few examples of the kids’ work below!
Creation Myth Collection Assignment
Raju Kumar: Aborigine Creation Myth, as related by volunteer Leah Wood
Once upon a time there was a place which was called Earth. In the Earth, the first people were so amazing because they could change their shape, color, and also their face. The god of the Earth was called Rainbow Snake. She was like a king, like in their empire when somebody tried to cheat then she used to give punishment and they became rock and slowly they formed the Earth. Also they said “the Turtle Earth,” meaning a big turtle is taking us behind the back and roaming through the space.
Creative Writing Creation Myth Prompt
Once upon a time, there was a group of monkeys. The monkeys were playing football and one monkey kicked the football so high that the other monkey couldn’t see it. The football went to Space and the football became a very hard rock and in that hard rock there formed an atmosphere and oxygen. Then the people came to live on that rock. The scientists knew that there was a very big rock so they called it “Earth.” In that Earth the living and nonliving things both can survive. The people started to live on that Earth and also the trees grew on the Earth. Rock formed, then the sky formed.
Science as a Creation Story
Rinchen Drolma: “How Oxygen Came to the Earth”
Long, long ago there was one ocean. After so many years, there formed one cellular bacteria. The bacteria were very hungry, so they started to eat the iron in the ocean. By eating iron, they produced oxygen. After billions and millions of years, the ocean was full of oxygen and the ocean had to space to hold the oxygen, so from the ocean oxygen started to come on the land. This is how oxygen came to the earth.
Personal Origin Stories
This story is about one school who has children from very poor families. Those children have no parents. Children who came to that school were helped by USA people. That school has 86 children.
There was one person whose name was Gen Lobsang Phuntsok. He thought, In the Mon Region, I will make one school for poor people. Then he started to make it. First Genla went to the United States of America. Genla there gave some teaching of Buddhism. Genla said to some people, “Help me for poor people to make one school.” The United States of America people gained support to Genla. They made Jhamtse Gatsal School. First, Jhamtse Gatsal had 34 students and later 48 and now there are 86 students.
My origin in life is when before I came to Jhamtse. At that time, “What is the meaning of Jhamtse?” and I also think “Where is Jhamtse? School of government?” Later I came to Jhamtse Gatsal, then I know. I saw so many things and how clean Jhamtse is, and how people teach us to treat people. I saw so many people come to this school, different people. And I knew later many types of languages in Jhamtse Gatsal. How they give us to love and compassion to each other.