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MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Leading Question #3

Decide For Yourself

Do you think the Grandfather was acting the way he should when he didn’t want to share the sun, stars and moon?

This question can be a starting point for discussions about issues surrounding how to treat other people and appropriate conduct. Asking children to voice their own ideas and experiences gives them the opportunity to think about and formulate codes of conduct based on the underlying morals of the story. In some respects, the portrayal of the Grandfather as selfish runs counter to Tlingit tradition which, as Pelton and DiGenarro note, “was not to hoard wealth for oneself, but to accumulate items to be given as gifts.” “In fact gifts were carefully chosen to honor both the receiver and the giver.” (Pelton, 12) Perhaps this deviation was intentional as a way of pointing out the incongruence of the behavior with societal norms. To fully engage young readers with the embedded meanings highlighted and reinforced in our story, it is also worth noting that “Tlingits have a strong value orientation. Their belief in the rightness and wrongness of things is ever present in their stories.” And that they believe that “all things must be kept in balance”, that “all powers of nature must be treated with courtesy and respect.” (Pelton, 17) The importance of these values seem self-evident but it is helpful to be reminded of them as we engage as educators to impart them upon students and visitors. It is also possible that in some cases the discussion engendered by this question can allow children to reveal struggles they may be experiencing in their own lives. These can be issues that other classroom experiences do not afford the appropriate opportunity to address and it is often the case that giving a child a safe place to share can itself be a catharsis that begins a healing process.

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