Every morning at the elementary school, the principal shares announcements over the loudspeaker. The topics include the daily lunch menu, student birthdays, student mediators for the day, any good behavior awards that were submitted the day before, and any school-wide events that are taking place.
Today I learned that the kids had the choice between mandarin chicken or strawberry chicken salad, that no one had a birthday today (which is unusual), that Annika in Grade 4 and Paul in Grade 5 were today’s mediators, that Malika got an award for being honest and turning in money she found in the hallway, and that the school is having a money drive to help tsunami victims in Japan.
Because of the school’s focus on the situation in Japan, the teacher wanted to teach the kids about earthquakes and tsunamis in order to help them better understand what really happened there – and why many people there now need assistance and support.
This is a tricky subject. On one hand, you want the students to have accurate information. On the other hand, these kids are 8 years old – they still believe in Santa, and the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. How much “accurate” information do we really want to give them – and how much do we want to try and protect their innocence and preserve their childhood for as long as possible?
The teacher tried to find some middle ground; she distributed a technically-accurate-but-very-‘light’ handout to the kids, featuring “Tommy Tsunami” and “Ernie Earthquake”. (No lie.) The kids got the basic message that earthquakes cause tsunamis, and that these two natural phenomena can be very mild to very severe, and that in the case of Japan, the damage was bad – many things were destroyed, and many people were hurt. And she left it at that.
However, as part of the lesson, the teacher did show a video that further explained earthquakes and tsunamis. It featured claymation crabs (à la Wallace and Gromit); and it did a pretty good job further managing the delicate balance between information-sharing and innocence-protection.
And while I was slightly… disturbed?… that the kids then proceeded to sing the closing song of the video somewhat cheerfully, I also found myself smiling at the video crabs. They were just too darn cheeky. I loved ‘em.