Environmental Stewardship
  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Analyze philanthropic traditions of diverse cultural groups and their contributions to civil society.
    2. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Give examples of how civil society sector giving by individuals and corporations can impact communities.
      2. Benchmark HS.5 Give examples of stewardship decisions throughout history and in current events.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.5 Identify and discuss civil society sector organizations working to build community/social capital and civil society resources.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Describe and compare stewardship in a variety of cultural traditions.

Using folktales, learners will explain why humankind has an important role as "caretakers of creation" and will analyze the role of civil society in environmental stewardship.

PrintFour 55 Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • use the geographic themes of location, place and human-environment relations to describe the setting and culture represented in the folktale.
  • identify the type of folktales represented by the stories.
  • identify cultural aspects of various cultures as revealed in the stories.
  • identify and explain examples of symbolism in the folktale.
  • define civil society and give examples of organizations related to environmental stewardship.
  • point out types of environmental stewardship, name and research organizations in civil society devoted to such work and "promote" their work.
Home Connection: 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework: The learner will share one of the folktales with his/her family and discuss whether the local government, a church or any other civic group follows a plan for acting as a caretaker of the community’s environment. The family members will discuss whether or not they support the actions of that organization and determine whether or not to provide their support to the group, either as a member or through private actions that improve the environment. The learner will share information on the environmental group researched during the lesson and will ask the family if it wishes to support the work of that organization through gifts of time, talent or treasure.

  • Associated Press. "Kenyan Environmentalist Wins Peace Prize," The Anglican Communion Observer of the United Nations Home Page. 8 October 2004. https://www.anglicancommunion.org/un/kenyanwinprize.htm (15 October 2005) [no longer available] 

  • "The Brave Little Parrot." Martin, Rafe. The Hungry Tigress: Buddhist Legends and Jakata Tales. Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, ©1990. Used with the permission of Parallax Press. www.parallax.org "Reprinted from The Hungry Tigress (1990) by Rafe Martin with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California."

  • "Kogi the Priest." Martin, Rafe. The Hungry Tigress: Buddhist Legends and Jakata Tales. Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, ©1990. Used with the permission of Parallax Press. www.parallax.org "Reprinted from The Hungry Tigress (1990) by Rafe Martin with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California."

  • Maathai, Wangari. "Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech," The Official Website of Prof. Wangari Maathai. 10 December 2004. http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/ (18 October 2005).
  • "The Secret of Dreaming." Poulter, Jim and illustrated by Mark Smith. The Secret of Dreaming: The Story of Why the Land Is Sacred and Why Man Must Be Its Caretaker. Templestowe: Victoria: Red Hen, ©1988. Used with the permission of Jim Poulter. http://www.jimpoulter.com/
  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Put the terms "steward" and "stewardship" on the chalkboard. Ask the learners to define it and give examples. Narrow the discussion of stewardship to environmental stewardship and its meaning.

  2. Explain that it is important to understand people and their environment when studying folktales. The first story, "The Secret of Dreaming" is an Australian Aboriginal folktale of creation. On a map, locate Australia’s absolute location (longitude and latitude) and relative location (general descriptors of where the place is located).

  3. In a brainstorming session, have the learners describe Australia as a place by listing recognizable physical characteristics (landforms, water bodies, climate, soil, natural vegetation, animal life) and human characteristics (inhabitants, settlement patterns, languages, religions, how they make a living).

  4. Read the story together. Identify what type of folktale this is (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable). Identify the lesson of the story.

  5. Discuss the details of the folktale:

    • What terms do the Aboriginals use for God?
    • What does dreaming represent (what is its secret)?
    • According to this story, in what order was the world created?
    • Who were the Creator Spirits and why weren’t they able to carry out the task of creation?
    • When the Secret of Dreaming was passed on to the Spirit of Man, what was different about what man did that allowed creation to be completed?
    • Why did the Spirit of Man decide that he must protect the Secret of Dreaming (creation)?
    • Why must the Spirit of Man be the Caretaker of the land?
  6. Have the learners focus on the end of the story where the Spirit of Man realizes a caretaker’s responsibility. In what way would being a caretaker of the land be an act of "giving"? What everyday actions are examples of what persons can do to be "caretakers of the land?" Would the giving represent time, talent or treasure? Why is it important that everyone share this responsibility?

  7. Although the folktale very heavily depends on Australian Aboriginal culture, does the story have universal appeal? Would it be understood by someone who knew nothing of the culture of the people?

  8. A very different look at stewardship can be seen in the Buddhist folktale, "The Brave Little Parrot." Read the story together. Identify what type of folktale this is (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable). Identify the lesson of the story.

  9. Although animals are not usually seen as caretakers of the land, the little parrot showed care, courage, giving and perseverance in his actions. Have the learners give examples of when he did these things.

  10. What lesson is learned from parrot’s words, "I don't need a great, shining eagle," coughed the little parrot, "to give me advice like that. My own mother, the dear bird, might have told me such things long ago. Advice! (cough, cough), I don't need advice. I just (cough) need someone to help"?

  11. What symbolism is revealed in the following passage, "The eagle's tears dripped from burned branches. Smoke rose up from the scorched earth. Miraculously, where those tears glistened, new life pushed forth—fresh shoots, stems, and leaves. Green grass pushed up from among still glowing cinders"?

  12. What types of environmental caretaking are suggested from the reading of "The Brave Little Parrot?"

  13. The Japanese folktale "Kogi the Priest" has a Buddhist background to its story. Using the Internet or other resource, have the learners research Buddhist teachings on animals and respect for life. Report the information to the whole group.

  14. Read the story together. Identify what type of folktale it is (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable). Identify the lesson of the story.

  15. In the story, Eizo accidentally fires at the bull whale, slips on the wet deck and falls against the iron floor. He then becomes the whale. Ask the learners why the author has Eizo become the great whale.

  16. The Nagas lived in underwater palaces, were regarded as guardians of treasure, and were concerned about suffering caused by man's disrespectful actions in relation to the environment. The Nagas often retaliated towards humans when they behaved incorrectly. Review the following passage from the folktale:

  17. "I have heard it said," his mother was saying, "that the Buddha gave his highest teachings into the care of the Nagas. Deep down, in their jeweled palaces beneath the seas, they guard this treasure of Perfect Wisdom. They keep it safely for us, until the day when we shall be wise and humble enough to receive our inheritance."

    Do the learners believe that the Nagas interceded in Eizo’s experience? What was the treasure the Nagas were trying to protect? How did Kogi’s decision mesh with his Buddhist faith? Did his decision make him a caretaker of creation?

  18. Divide the learners into small groups. Have each group put the expression environmental stewardship in the middle of a sheet of paper and web their ideas on what constitutes care of the environment today. (Teacher Option: You may wish to assign a category of the environment, such as air, water, soil, climate, natural resources, forests, plants and animals, to each group before beginning, to make sure there is a wide breadth of coverage.) Make sure the groups are not only mentioning problems, but also solutions. Have the teams report their discussions and post the completed stewardship webs.

  19. Put the term civil society on the board. Ask the learners to define it (a set of intermediate associations which are neither the state nor the extended family; civil society therefore includes voluntary associations and firms and other corporate bodies).

  20. Continuing in small groups, have the teams research an organization (anywhere from a grass roots organization up to an international organization) which devotes its work to environmental stewardship related to the category of environment the group webbed. Once they have obtained information on the work of the group, have them produce a "promo" for the work of the group. It may include a brochure, videotape, billboard design, song, television commercial or magazine ad. Display or exhibit the created work to a larger group as a means of affecting change or promoting interest in the environment.

  21. Put the following quote on the board: "No man should think himself a zero, and think he can do nothing about the state of the world," Bernard Baruch. U.S. financier and government adviser (1870–1965). Working individually, each learner should discuss the quote in relation to the theme of this lesson by writing an essay. The learner should define what it means to be a caretaker of creation, give an example from one of the folktales where someone was a caretaker of creation, identify a particular category of the environment and describe how one can be a caretaker of that category. The learner should describe the work of a particular group in civil society and then describe how the above quote can enlighten one person’s actions as a caretaker of creation today. See Caretaker of Creation Essay Rubric (Handout One) for scoring.


The promotional creation on an environmental group and the "Caretaker of Creation" essay may be used as assessments of learning.