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ACTIVITY: Positive Images & Messages of Peace (excerpt)

Grades 2-8

 

A Special Example – The Story of Jumping Mouse

 

John Steptoe's 40-page illustrated version of THE STORY OF JUMPING MOUSE (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 105 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016) is a Native American legend of a Magic Frog who gives his jumping legs to a discouraged young mouse who had recently set out in pursuit of her dream -- a journey to the far-off land.  He also tells Jumping Mouse to remember three words -- "never lose hope".  Rejuvenated and able to travel much more quickly, Jumping Mouse resumes her journey. 

 

On the way she encounters a fat old mouse who entices her to enjoy a comfortable rest.  But Jumping Mouse recovers her resolve just in time, as her lazy host is eaten by a snake. When her journey brings her to a vast prairie, Jumping Mouse discovers a lonely buffalo just standing there.  Upon inquiry, she learns that the buffalo is blind, so Jumping Mouse imitates Magic Frog by giving her eyes to a blind buffalo (renamed "Eyes of a Mouse") and the buffalo leads her across the prairie on his back.  At the end of the prairie the buffalo can go no further and Jumping Mouse recalls Magic Frog's words, "never lose hope" and thus proceeds into the forest ahead. 

 

Soon she hears an animal who identifies himself as a fox who can't smell.  Jumping Mouse tries her magic once more and is able to give the fox her nose and renames him "Nose of a Mouse").  In turn, the fox leads Jumping Mouse through the forest.  But as the forest ends at the foot of a high mountain and the fox can go no further, Jumping Mouse goes to sleep in despair in the face of this seemingly insurmountable barrier to her goal.   While sleeping, she hears someone approach and suddenly Magic Frog appears and tells Jumping Mouse to jump as high as she can and remember his words, "never lose hope".  She gathers her courage, leaps as high as she can, and discovers herself soaring over the mountain as Magic Frog below shouts out Jumping Mouse's new name -- "Eagle".

 

You can embellish this core of the story in many ways, perhaps creating a dramatic reading or play, adapting it to the age and interests of your students. At a minimum, you can tell the story on the move, imitating Jumping Mouse in each part of her journey, with the children chanting Magic Frog's words -- "never lose hope" -- each time it is appropriate.

 

Note: This story as dramatized by “Francis the Clown” (Dr. James McGinnis) to a group of elementary students in a religious education class is available on a 30-minute video from the Institute for Peace and Justice ($15, plus mailing).

 

If you like rhythmic introductions to stories as a way of capturing the children's attention, you might use or adapt the following introduction, inviting the children to fill in the blank words:

"I have a friend you should meet,   so please take your seat,

and guess who it is,   this is sort of a quiz.

 

Short legs she has four,   to dart on the floor

in pursuit of some cheese,   her food, if you please.

His tail it is long,   his voice squeaky not strong.

No great feats can she boast,   she's six inches at most.

A closet her house,   for my friend is a ______ (mouse).

 

No name has she yet,   the frog she's not met.

But a dream she does find   in the back of her mind

keeps telling her go   to a land where she'll know

the end of all strife   and the fullness of ____ (life).

 

The "far off land" it is known   but she's never been shown

the way to get there,   so her friends they don't dare

join in her quest   for the prize that is _____ (best).

 

But the dream keeps on saying    no more delaying,

so her story I'll tell    if you listen quite ____ (well).

 

Discussion questions following the story could include:

  • Why was Jumping Mouse able to realize her dream?
     

  • What were some of the temptations she had to overcome on her journey?
     

  • What is the connection between achieving your dream and a willingness to sacrifice yourself for others? 
     

  • Who are some famous "Jumping Mouse"-type people?  (Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr are two obvious examples.  Ask the children how each was like Jumping Mouse. 
     

  • Who are some people in your own family, school or community who are like Jumping Mouse?
     

  • What are some ways you can be like Jumping Mouse at this point in your life?

 

Return to If Only Today You Knew the Things that Make for Peace for Christian High Elementary Schools and Religious Education K-8