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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 #1

Creation Stories

Where do you think the stars, moon and sun came from?

This is obviously and open-ended question for which there are no right or wrong answers It is used here to spark a child’s imagination about the natural world around them. The story of the sky in our story is informed by the kind of creation stories that are central to Native American identity. According to scholar and former IAIA Museum Director Richard Hill, these stories “teach us what kind of people we hope to become, what kind of contribution we hope to make, what kind of legacy we hope to pass on to our children” (Hill, 21). Embedded in these origin stories are core foundational philosophies that perhaps most inform Native people’s world view: harmony and balance with the natural world, inter-generational respect for the Earth, the Creator, elders and ancestors (past and future). The actions of the Raven described in our story take their cue from Tlingit cultures and others throughout the Northwest and even into Siberia, in which Raven is a character that is a symbol of both mischief and creation. And, as Rick Hill states, “Indian culture is manifested in art through tribal, family and spiritual symbols that have created a vast visual literacy. Each generation carries the symbols of their ancestors forward, adding perspective to a symbol’s significance ...” (Hill, 14) Regardless of one’s own ancestry, much of what we have in mind when we engage children in making meaning from images such as those found in our book, is to enhance creative thinking skills and imagination. By asking children to ponder big questions such as this one – what Barbara Sweney refers to as allowing a “child to participate in cultural practices slightly above his or her own capabilities” – we are boosting their ability to internalize what they are learning. (Sweney, 80)

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