The fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk" can teach children about right and wrong, as well as helping them stretch their imaginations. It tells of a very poor boy who, instead of selling the family cow at market, trades it for five magical beans. When Jack's mother throws the beans out the window, they grow into a beanstalk that stretches to the sky. Jack climbs it, and finds treasure in a giant's castle. Classroom activities can reinforce concepts in the story, and teach children about related ideas.
A Lesson in Character Choices
The story presents many moral issues: Was trading the cow for beans a responsible choice? Should Jack's mother be mad at him since the situation ultimately worked out for the better? Was Jack right in stealing from the giant? Discuss these issues in class, and then ask students to write personal essays reflecting on one of these themes. For example, students might write about a time they did something irresponsible and what they learned from it, or they might write about being tempted by stealing and how they overcome that temptation.
Learn About Magical Beans
The beans we eat may not grow into beanstalks that reach the sky, but they still have "magical" properties for our bodies. Talk to children about the nutritional properties of beans, such as the fact that they contain protein to help our bodies grow, fiber to keep our digestion healthy, and many other vitamins and minerals. Prepare several types of beans so children can taste them, and discuss which ones they prefer. Ask students to share their favorite dishes with beans.
The Class Can Grow Its Own Beanstalks
Growing beans is easy to do in the classroom, and it can teach students about where their food comes from and what's required to care for plants. Start sprouting the beans in wet paper towels, and then move the seedlings to small pots. Talk about what's required to care for the seeds, such as providing enough sun, water and fertilizer, and talk about how big the stalk will grow and how many beans it will produce. Other easy things to grow in the classroom include lettuce, tomatoes and herbs like basil and oregano.
The Golden Egg and Other Eggs
Jack finds a hen that lays golden eggs in the giant's castle. While the hen may be magical, many other animals lay eggs that offer quality nutrition or produce life. Provide several examples of animals that lay eggs, such as different types of birds, snakes, and even dinosaurs. Create an activity that asks students to match different eggs to the animals that produce them. Choose distinctive eggs that make it easier for students to identify. For example, a chicken's egg and a dinosaur egg will both be easy to name. Don't forget to include the hen with the golden egg.
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