Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Visit to the School of Environmental Studies

Today I visited the School of Environmental Studies (SES) in Apple Valley, to talk about folklore and the environment. Although I have visited this school many times, each visit is a new and refreshing experience.

As in the past, Todd Carson, the class teacher, invited me. I told the students today that I love and respect their school so much that I would never decline an invitation to speak there.

I discussed the evolution of language and folklore as vehicles for human survival and development. I talked about how humans have used and continue to use myths, legends, folktales, and other folklore forms to make sense of the world around them. Through incantations, rituals and ceremonies, humans have sought to influence the world.

Discussing stories of the origin of the world, I mentioned the Popol Vuh of the ancient Mayans, having just taught it in my folklore class at St. Olaf College. I also mentioned the widespread African story of how God separated himself from humans.

I talked about how story telling appropriates advances in technology, such as writing. Nowadays story telling goes on in newspapers, television, and social media such as blogs and Facebook and Twitter. In response to a question, I said that all disciplines are, essentially, forms of storytelling.

Since I visit the SES when the students are reading selections from Matengo Folktales, I always get to share some tales. Today, I told one tale from that book, "The Monster in the Rice Field."

My visits to the SES are always memorable. The students are different every year, but always delightful, brimming with intellectual curiosity. They ask great questions, and the two-hour session ends rather quickly. (Photos by Todd Carson).

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