character education blog can be found at : http://www.lorinda-charactereducation.com/
SCROLL DOWN FOR C.S. ACTIVITY
The Wise Men and the Elephant, by James Baldwin
(One of my favorite stories! This story is based off of an old Indian Tale)
There were once six blind men who stood by the roadside every day, and begged from the people who passed. They had often heard of elephants, but they had never seen one; for, being blind, how could they?
It so happened one morning that an elephant was driven down the road where they stood. When they were told that the great beast was before them, they asked the driver to let him stop so that they might see him. Of course they could not see him with their eyes; but they thought that by touching him they could learn just what kind of animal he was. The first one happened to put his hand on the elephant's side. "Well, well!" he said, "now I know all about this beast. He is exactly like a wall." The second felt only of the elephant's tusk. "My brother," he said, "you are mistaken. He is not at all like a wall. He is round and smooth and sharp. He is more like a spear than anything else."
The third happened to take hold of the elephant's trunk. "Both of you are wrong," he said. "Anybody who knows anything can see that this elephant is like a snake." The fourth reached out his arms, and grasped one of the elephant's legs. "Oh, how blind you are!" he said. "It is very plain to me that he is round and tall like a tree." The fifth was a very tall man, and he chanced to take hold of the elephant's ear. "The blindest man ought to know that this beast is not like any of the things that you name," he said. "He is exactly like a huge fan."
The sixth was very blind indeed, and it was some time before he could find the elephant at all. At last he seized the animal's tail. "O foolish fellows!" he cried. "You surely have lost your senses. This elephant is not like a wall, or a spear, or a snake, or a tree; neither is he like a fan. But any man with a particle of sense can see that he is exactly like a rope." Then the elephant moved on, and the six blind men sat by the roadside all day, and quarreled about him. Each believed that he knew just how the animal looked; and each called the others hard names because they did not agree with him. People who have eyes sometimes act as foolishly.
This is is a conflict based on differences, what the men thought they knew. Each blind man could only tell what his hands could feel and as a result each man was sure he was right. No one would listen to what the other had to say. Have children brainstorm a list as a about: How could the Wise Men have discovered what the elephant really looked like?
You will need 1 large piece of cardboard or poster board bent in two so that it can stand up in a sideways or upside down V on a table. Choose 2 colors; for this description I am choosing the colors of Yellow and Pink. Place a piece of yellow paper on one side of the card board, and pink on the other. When no one is around stand the cardboard up at the opposite end of where the children will be sitting and cover it so no one can see the colors on the sides.
If you are doing the activity with more than two children, choose two children to help with this demonstration. Quietly explain to the children helpers that they will be disagreeing with each other No Matter What, and ask them to try to talk in sentences rather than one word answers. They are to argue with each other without yelling. If there are children watching, the helper children and the prop are enough distance away, the other children cannot see the different colors on the sides of the cardboard stand. Place a child on either side of the cardboard and remove the cover and ask:
(possible starting dialog)
Adult: What color do you see?
Child 1: I see Yellow.
Adult: (to Child 2), Do you agree?
Child 2: No it's pink not Yellow.
Adult: He says it's pink not yellow?
Egg the children on to disagree and insist they are correct until they are able to run with the dialog by themselves.
Ask: why can two people feel two different ways with the same situation? People see things from their view point. From everywhere in the room, someone may see something differently from everyone else. Show the children the two sides of the cardboard revealing the yellow and pink paper.
When you are in a disagreement with someone, try to understand their side of the situation. Just insisting you are right will get you nowhere! Each person sees situations differently, be open to understanding the other side.
This is a great activity. Our Middle School/High School staff is looking at ways to implement character education into our system. We have studied the KIPP academy character system. It grades each student on 8 different character traits including: zest, grit, self-control - school work, self-control - interpersonal, optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity. Each character trait is taught and then each student has a conference to learn where their strengths and weaknesses are. We want to implement a system such as this, but we are unsure of where to start. I think that activities such as this would be a good place to begin.