Imaginary Creatures in an Imaginary World

Over the past weeks, we have watched our Imaginary Creatures Emergent Curriculum evolve beyond the point of questioning curiosities.  As teachers, we have observed your children in their play and engaged them in investigating their wonderings.

With a classroom library of both fictional stories and informational texts about imaginary creatures, your children have developed specific interests.  One source of great wonder is the book Mythological Creatures: A Classical Bestiary by Lynn Curlee.  This picture book shows illustrations of creatures from Greek mythology with short descriptions about their powers and the myth associated with them.  Although the text is rather lofty and at times, needs paraphrasing to ensure appropriateness, the Beavers have become fascinated with the illustrations and learning about the creatures.  Our exploration of Greek Mythology has brought up many conversations about good vs. evil, power vs. powerlessness, morality vs. immorality.  As we have pondered the creatures in many of these tales, some children have noticed distinctions between creatures, that some are interpreted as good and others as  scary.  While studying Medusa, some children mentioned she’s scary because “she has hair made of snakes,” and she is evil because, “she can turn people into rocks just by looking at them.”   In response to their curiosity, we have continued with these discussions.  Exploring ideas of fear in a safe space can empower children. Young children are often intrigued by themes of power, and need to explore them to further their social-emotional development. As children process and rationalize their fears, they often raise up ideas in play and in  conversation to allow them to make emotional sense of a concept.  While we have provided a space for exploration of these ideas, we have continuously reminded them of the distinction between fantasy and reality.  This video features a few friends sharing their knowledge about Greek Mythology.

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Part 2:

 

The children noticed that many Greek Mythological creatures have mismatched body parts that belong to different animals.  For example the Chimera is part serpent, part goat and part lion.  The Centaur is part man and part horse. To deepen our understanding of the features of these characters, many children chose to draw their favorite mythological creature. Using tracing paper and color copies of the illustrations, the children worked hard to trace the lines of the creatures.  Unlike free drawing which provides space for creative expression and one’s own interpretation of an idea, tracing provides an intense fine motor exercise that focuses specifically on control and precision.  We loved watching the Beavers deep in concentration (many of them with tongues sticking out :), tracing images of their favorite mythological creatures.

Next, we used our research of Greek Mythological Characters to inspire us in the creation of our own imaginary creatures.  Inspired by our noticings, we created creatures that had a bottom half that did not match the top half.   We called this activity “Creature Mix-Up.” We worked in partners to draw the outline for our creature. They started by secretly drawing the head of their creature and then switching with a partner who next drew the bottom half of the same creature.  When they both had completed their drawing they unfolded their paper to reveal their mixed up creatures!  We used watercolor to complete them.  We then began to think about different elements that go into character development.  We asked them to think about who their character is, what makes their creature unique and where they imagine them to live.  They drew pictures of their creature’s habitat or setting to further develop their ideas about their creatures.  Over the next couple of weeks, we will use these creatures to tell stories and make them come to life.

The first step in this process was to prompt the Beavers to provide descriptions of their mixed-up creatures.  We scaffolded each “bio” with the same guiding questions: What is your creature’s name?  How old is it?  Is it afraid of anything?  Does it have any special powers?  Below, you can see their creatures, as well as the accompanying bios:

Arjun 
Name: Chimera
Age: Infinity, a million
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Fire lasers electric and magic.  It has a lion, snake, goat-head. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No, it kills people. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
The Chimera is bad. 
Asher
Name: Booey
Age: 4 years old, just like me
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Fire because the fire power that Booey has burns people. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No. He’s strong.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
They can’t tell because that fire power deads people and it burns.
Ava
Name: Popcorn Horse
Age: 9
What are the special powers of your creature? 
She can only freeze water and freeze boats. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Popcorn Horse acts very nice but sometimes she acts mean around people because she doesn’t like people doing mean things to her friends.
Carmen
Name: Unicornia
Age: Eighteen Twenty-Four
What are the special powers of your creature? 
A horn that is really powerful that can kill animals.  My creature can fly every places without getting tired.  If it gets tired it can drink water from anyplace he wants to get it.  And if he wants to fly over, over the river, he can also get anything he wants from the grass. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Nice when he drinks water the nice and mean when he drinks it the mean way. 
Cate
Name: Mermaid
Age: 11
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Ice powers that she can breathe people. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
She’s thoughtful.
Charlie
Name: Paintbrush
Age: 2
What are the special powers of your creature? 
He can give markers to you that are invisible but everyone that gets a marker can see them.  
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
He’s silly. 
Elfie
Name: Ghosty
Age: 15
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Water, ice, diamonds and crystals and ice.
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No, he’s nice. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
He’s as nice as me. She lives in a cave in the jungle.  
Emerson
Name: Wompa E-walk
Age: Ten Hundred
What are the special powers of your creature? 
He can blow up anybody in midair.  His other special powers is that he can turn anyone into a blaster in midair. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
He’s scared of Darth Vader. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
One side is good and the other side is bad.  The good side is the E-Walk.  The bad side is the Wompa.  And his real, real name is Princess Lea.  His symbol is half good, half bad.  He likes to eat purple markers and he likes to eat Luke Skywalker.  The rebel alliance is trying to get the Wompa E-Walk but the E-walk is so upset because he was good and the Wompa was bad so he was so scared that people would get him.  
Ezra
Name: Agent
Age: 4
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Agent has fire breath and he has powers.  His powers are scissors and markers and fires and ice and cards and paper and drawing.  
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Agent is really helpful and if someone says bad to him, he’ll tell his teachers.  He has school like me.  
Harper
Name: Catta
Age: 4.5 because I am 4.5
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Cat powers like she can be a boy if she wants and she can change back to a girl.  She has magic powers that can let her do anything. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
She is not.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
She’s nice. 
Harry
Name: Sunset because he lives in the sunset and that’s where the sunset goes. 
Age: 5
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Whatever the sun is setting Sunset can fly over there and fly around it.  Whenever there is a sunset he sees the sunset. It’s a frog that lives in the sunset.
Is your creature scared of anything? 
He is not scared of anything. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Sunset is like yellow and red all over the place.  Sunset goes around the whole world once the sun sets.  He’s super fast. 
Jake
Name: Chimera
Age: 100
What are the special powers of your creature? 
He has hard jewels that have powers that kill people who don’t exist.  He has hard claws so he can break a glass and the snake slithers and when the lion’s tail is down,  it acts really powerful. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No, he is scared of nothing.  Since he is really powerful he can win fighting everything. He can fight anything. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
It saves people but kills people that don’t exist that are bad.  If it sees a picture that it doesn’t like it smashes it with his claws.  
Jalen
Name: Giant Snake
Age: 90
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Giant Snake can move and say psssst.  He can read and he also has hands.  The snake is a boy, not a girl. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
He is not gonna scare people or kids.  He is a nice Giant Snake.  The snake can wake up people when they’re sleeping by the Beavers.  
Lucia
Name: Diamond
Age: 8
What are the special powers of your creature? 
It has magic powers.  It can fly to museums. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Diamond is so happy.  
Milo
Name: Mr. Smarty Pants
Age: Sixty Hundred Years Old
What are the special powers of your creature? 
He disguises his name because he wants to disguise his power so everyone doesn’t know it.  His power is laser beams because he lived in the Ancient Egypt World and we don’t know about it now but I just would think about it and I probably made it up or not but he lived in there.  He disguised name because anybody that has Pants in the name has laser powers.  He only uses it if he has to.  
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No. He friends with all of the Ancient Egypt gods and all of the Greeek ones. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
He is very evil but he just really just tries to be nice because he wants to pretend he is nice but he disguises his name.  And if he doesn’t they won’t know what to do with him.  But they figure it out.  He just kept saying the pretend name and they firgured it out from the pretend name because it was a hard name to say.  They figured it out and one day he actually he said his real name by accident and one time they knew what to do.  He had a chicken leg, only one, and they bited it and they ate him and his leg.  The human part still stayed alive and his tooth fell out and theat you can see in the picture.  
Pearl
Name: Squiggle Wiggle
Age: 100
What are the special powers of your creature? 
It can turn mud into balls by just making the mud.  He just shoots the mud and it goes into a ball.  So fast.   Also, bubbles.  If anybody is bad he can make a giant bubble and make it inside.  
Is your creature scared of anything?  
Cats are scared of Squiggle Wiggle, but he is not scared of anything. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Squiggle Wiggle is nice.  
Ruby
Name: Cous Cous
Age: 118
What are the special powers of your creature? 
She likes to jump and has a Pegasus named Ruby, like me.  She can flip like backwards under her legs. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
She is scared of Minatours that like to eat crazy mermaids. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
She just walks around and that’s all.  She has a crazy name because it’s Cous Cous so she is crazy too! 
Steelo
Name: Acqua
Age: 500
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Acqua can be under water.  He can make a big giant splash even bigger than anyone’s splash in the world. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Acqua is nice and he always goes into a deep water cave that no one can go into because there is a hole in it and it is really cool.  But in the deep water cave it is only filled with a wire because he digged it out.   He is royal. 
Téa
Name: Sparkle Crystal Diamond
Age: She’s 21
What are the special powers of your creature? 
She has no hands so she only has powers from her crown and those powers are crystals that are black crystals that shoot up.  They never go away until they are nice.  Also when there are nice people, she gives them crowns also and makes them princesses.
Is your creature scared of anything? 
She is scared of monsters.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
She is very nice and she never is mean to anyone.  Sparkle Crystal Diamond is so nice and she can fly.  She has wings and a horn. 
Alex
Name: Ella the Ghost
Age: 5
What are the special powers of your creature? 
She has magical powers to keep butterflies away.  One day her powers went away and a butterfly went away and she went, “Huh!” And then the butterfly went away.  But the butterfly was nice and the ghost didn’t know. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
Butterflies. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Ella the Ghost is spooky
Vivian
Name:  Snake Man
Age: 6
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Snake man is a people.  He is a princess too. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
Yes.  He is scared of crickets. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Snake man is spooky.  

When evaluating their imaginary creatures, we noticed some common themes.  Themes such as immortality vs. mortality, power vs. powerlessness, fear vs. courage and good vs. evil were common throughout.  As children grapple with their role in the world, they often explore these themes in an effort to make emotional sense of them.

Over the next few weeks, we intend to dive deeper into the transition from “real” to “imaginary,” through storytelling and dramatizations.  Drawing upon their fascination with Greek Mythology, we will begin to expose them to folklore of a diverse range of cultures.  Just today, we began a learning about Chinese Mythology, reading  Demi’s Dragons and Fantastical Creatures.  Their investment in this imaginative world is rich and we look forward to expanding upon their expressed interests.

1 Comment on Imaginary Creatures in an Imaginary World

  1. larthur
    December 5, 2015 at 6:42 am (2 years ago)

    Awesome!

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