Friday, 26 December 2014

Stories from settings and characters

Being as it's Christmas, I've been thinking about the Christmas story.  Like most stories, you can construct it from its setting and its characters.  I analysed the Christmas carols we sing at services:

Once in Royal David’s City
A town, with a cattle shed, stable
Mother, baby,
Nowadays, you are unlikely to find any cattle in a city, but until the beginning of the 20th century, people provided fresh milk in towns and cities by keeping cows in the town. You can find old pictures of cattle grazing on the open spaces.
Stables were needed everywhere because of the use of horses for transport.
While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night
Night time,
Shepherds, angels, baby, manger (stable)
The First Nowell
Fields, cold winter’s night
Angel, shepherds, sheep
Little Town of Bethlehem
Silent morning, stars, dark street,
Angels present, and sleeping mortals, but interesting absence of people but with reference mortals sleeping, and God, Christ and Mary.
Silent Night
Bright, silent night, near dawn
Mother, child, shepherds, contrasting noise from a singing ‘heavenly host’
Three Kings
Star, Bethlehem plain
Kings, 3 from the orient, and a fourth born, referred to but otherwise not active.
Notice the use of props (boundary objects) in this carol.  Each gift has a meaning.
Little Donkey
A road, town in sight, star above, cattle shed
Mary, donkey, wise men,
Good King Wenceslas
Deep crisp even snow, bright moon lit night, forest,
King (old man) and page boy, poor man carry fuel (pine logs)
Little Drummer Boy
The setting isn’t stated
Ox, lamb, drummer boy, Mary, baby, “They”
Note the need for the prop (the drum). The “they” refers to people who told the boy to bring gifts.

You see how, knowing characters and settings you can construct a story.  If you have a Christian background, you probably know the story is about the same in most of these carols - they all refer to night time, a clear night and a special star, and they are all about a special baby.  Some of them make this an opportunity to express another sentiment or meaning.  For instance, the "Three Kings" uses the gift of myrrh to forecast the baby's death.  "Once in Royal David's City" admonishes children to be as obedient and good as the baby. "While Shepherds Watched" offers glory to God. 
For the JuxtaLearn project, students need similarly identify settings and characters that unfold a story that expresses a deeper meaning about the STEM subject of interest. 
Happy Christmas.

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