In this one-week mythology workshop, students in grades four through six learned about tricksters, monsters, and constellations. We began by writing stories based on a “Merperson” selected from a collection of images. We then read and analyzed a prose poem by Matthea Harvey called “The Backyard Mermaid.” In Zoom breakout rooms, students worked together to identify vivid verbs, intriguing nouns, and points of symbolism in the poem. This led into the exercise of listing mythical creatures we know (and researching about some that we didn’t). Choosing from their lists, each student wrote a poem or a story about one such beast. We also responded to a prompt that had us creating unique animal-creature hybrids and writing about what would happen if these strange monsters met each other!
Our discussion of tricksters was fueled by two animal trickster myths: “Raven and the King Salmon” and “How Dog Won Fire.” In these tales, we saw how certain characters utilize intelligence and cunning to outsmart others—but, more importantly, we came to see that myths often tell about the earliest times and about how certain aspects of the world came to be. We had a chance to watch a video of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” being read aloud and followed along with the words on the screen. Although “The Raven” is not an easy poem to understand, we still garnered a lot of meaning from it, and it served as a great example of symbolism. Ravens, after all, are quite iconic in many cultures, and they are often found in myths. Exploring what the raven in Poe’s famous poem might represent was quite a treat.
Rounding out the workshop was a lesson about constellations. We learned that two of the most known constellations, the “big dipper” and the “little dipper,” are contemporary names for what are also called “Ursa Major” and “Ursa Minor,” which translate to “greater bear” and “little bear.” We talked a little about the myth behind these nighttime outlines and how humans have always looked to the stars and wondered about what is above. We drew our own constellations, and then each student interpreted the drawing of a fellow workshop participant! Everyone was asked to imagine being an archeologist who was discovering the tomb of a lost civilization’s king or queen. If a peer’s constellation was found inscribed on the tomb’s wall, what story might explain the starry pattern’s shape? What might this tell us about what the lost culture valued most?
It was a blast engaging with some diverse literature and sharing our own work with one another. Myths demonstrate one of humanity’s greatest truths: we tell stories to understand ourselves and the world around us!
Badgerdog Teaching Artist
The Cyclops and the Monocle
A cyclops who lived on a deserted island lost his monocle. He searched the whole island only to find it broken. He was sad because he couldn’t read his favorite comic books.
There was no eye glass shop on his island, so he swam to a different island in search of a new monocle. Luckily, he found a monocle in a glasses shop. He needed money to buy it, so he offered to shine all the glasses in the shop for money. He could read his comic books again because he was able to buy the monocle.
The Jungle Dragon
The Jungle Dragon flies across the whole jungle, spitting fireballs left and right, searching for something special. The Dragon has big, giant wings with very sharp claws. The land that the dragon lives on has cyclopes, goblins, and one dragon. His goal in life is to eat a golden grape to become immortal. The dragon fears humans because humans try to hunt him for his rarity. He flies away when he sees humans. He needs a type of plant to survive, but he hunts and searches for the golden grape. The plant is called the Japanese fire flower, and that’s where he gets his fire powers. Also, the dragon likes to collect shark teeth. When he was a baby, he was friends with a shark, and that is why he collects shark teeth. Would you like to meet The Jungle Dragon?
The Vark would love to go to the surface, but he can’t. This is a Vark: half vampire, half shark. The Vark is an agile swimmer, but he can’t see sunlight. If he does, he will DIE. Even at night, the moon is too bright for the Vark to swim up. This is why he has never been seen. He lives on the bottom of the sea. When there is a new moon, he is able to swim up to the surface and visit Poseidon. Poseidon loves when the Vark visits. The Vark is very funny. Whenever the Vark visits, Poseidon has to put a bite-proof vest on so that he doesn’t turn into a Vark. The Vark sometimes turns things into other Varks, but then mostly eats them. The Vark’s flippers are like a penguin’s. This is why he can surf with Poseidon. But, on October 3rd, 1865, Poseidon wasn’t there to greet the Vark. The Vark locked himself in the cellar of a sunken ship and was never seen again.
The Sharkefant’s Diary
Making storms. Punishment to animals. This is my daily life diary. Day after day, I do this backbreaking drudgery, becoming even more bitter than ever. This is all because I’m a sharkefant. I wish I weren’t. On the outside, we appear melancholy, furious, and like we have many other “down feelings.” It is very hard to find a hopeful or perky sharkefant because most of us have negative feelings. We sharkefants guard the Underworld of the Organisms. All living organisms except for gods and humans go to the storm clouds after they die. So, we have to see if they pass the badness test. Every time an animal or plant comes through the lightning gates, we stomp our feet onto the clouds, creating thunder, lightning, rain, blizzards, hurricanes, and even hail. I, however, don’t do that job. Since I am one of the youngest sharkafents working here, I have the job of punishing the animals that die mean and cruel. It’s a hard life, not at all like that of the gods who live on Mount Olympus. The storm clouds only pass by the home of the gods once or twice a month, you know. Why do I have to be a sharkefant? Why are we forbidden to go anywhere besides the storm clouds? Let me guess: just because of our smelly breath and the loud snarls we make? Snarls are an instinct; they automatically happen, just like breathing and blinking for humans. Why are we treated like prisoners because of our ugly looks and our swampy, slimy skin? Huh, a weird way to be treated. Today, my mom has grounded me in the bathroom, just because I felt sad for a rabbit that stole carrots from the wealthy to survive. That caused me to forget to make a hurricane and give the rabbit punishment! When this happened, the rabbit came back to life, and I got punished by Zeus. I don’t know why Zeus dislikes sharkefants 100%. Maybe he was the god who persuaded everyone to think that sharkefants are dreadful creatures. I am making my mission to convince Zeus that sharkefants can still be positive.
You should never go out after
The Warnings ring in your ears
The Tall Tales
The wind is wailing
That’s not the wind
You start to
The trees are reaching out
That’s not the trees
The water is running towards you
That’s not the water
The cold wind chills your spine
That’s not the wind
Branches grab you by the shoulders
That’s not the branches
A dark veil of mist swirls around you
That’s not mist
In your mind, you start to disappear
That’s not just your imagination
The myths are true
The warnings are true
La Llorona has come
Olivia Rose Gonzalez Kraft
My monster sounds deep and dark. My monster looks like a wolf. My monster feels soft and smells like rotten flesh. My monster is Fenris wolf. Fenris wolf lives on the island of heather the flower. He was trapped by the Norse gods. Heather wards off evil, and Fenris wolf is surrounded by it. His greatest desire is to break free of the rope Gleipnir and start Ragnarok/doomsday. He is a son of Loki, and his brother is the world serpent.
Banshee a haunted little girl who died of screaming
Banshee haunts churches making anyone inside them perish
Banshee sneaky as a black widow spider in the middle of night
Banshee her lost soul somewhere in the darkness
Banshee her looks are a girl with fierce red eyes pure white skin and hair like an albino
Banshee smells like a nice warm breeze victims clueless that it’s a trap
Banshee tastes so bitter that we start screaming in terror and pain
Banshee sounds like a soft breeze when uncovered sounds so terrifying you would turn to dust
Banshee feels like cotton candy but hands sticky like superglue something you can never get off
Banshee the one who haunts you
Alex the Cyclops
The cyclops named Alex was asleep in his cave. He opened his big yellow eye and stood up and tightened the rope around the waist of his tunic. It was a beautiful sunny day, but because he did not like sunlight, Alex put on his sunglasses to block the light. He then went to the heavens to see if he had a new mission. He was in charge of keeping other creatures safe.
Alex talked to Hermes to see if there were any creatures that needed to be rescued. Hermes said that there was one dragon that was stuck in a cave and that the dragon’s wing was caught under a huge rock, so he was unable to fly away. Alex saddled up a griffin to fly to the dragon, and, using his extraordinary strength, Alex lifted the rock and freed the dragon. It had a broken wing, so Alex asked the griffin to call his flock to lift the dragon back to the heavens to get its wing fixed.
After a long and exhausting day, Alex went back to his cave to eat his favorite meal of fruits and vegetables, brushed his teeth, and went to bed. It was really dark in his cave, so he fell asleep immediately.