What is adventure? The explorer will define ‘adventure’ as waking up in the morning and having no idea what the day will bring their way. For the scientist ‘adventure’ is the journey they take to find out the truth, even if it is not what they expect to discover. While for the stunt performer ‘adventure’ is defined as taking risks, by performing possibly dangerous acts. Perhaps adventure can be best defined as ‘life’, if you are not on an adventure you are not living, and this is what gets us out of bed in the morning to fulfil our own personal adventure. We spend enormous effort trying to make our lives comfortable, but we cannot escape the yearning to explore new places, find out the answers to our questions, and of course to take risks. We are all like Rudyard Kipling’s Elephant Child, we cannot resist the temptation of sticking our noses out into the unexplored world, sniffing around and trying to make sense of it all. Of course the elephant child discovers that the world is full of danger. The crocodile bites the elephant child’s nose, pulling it and making it long like a trunk. But even when the world bites back like the hungry crocodile, through our experience we learn more, and in in turn we become more. The elephant child has earned his trunk, however the adventure has only just begun.
Write an email to a friend, tell them about an adventure you have been on recently. It could be something that happened at school or on a family holiday. You could even invent an adventure!
An Elephant Never Forgets
A short story inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s Elephant Child
All elephants had trunks thanks to the adventures of the elephant child. Their long noses were useful for many things, like picking up leaves to build a shelter, or reaching the highest branches to find delicious fruit. The trunks were very useful, they were also great for playing. One day the elephant child used his trunk to throw a melon to the baboon. The melon hit the baboon on the head and he was very angry.
‘Ouch! How did you throw that Melon?’ he asked the elephant child.
The elephant child was sorry for hurting the baboon and had expected the baboon to catch the melon.
‘I used my trunk’ he told the baboon. ‘I thought you liked melons!’
The baboon agreed that he liked melons and they continued to play catch the melon for the rest of the day.
The next day the elephant child was curious about what else he could do with his new trunk. He went to see the hippopotamus. The hippopotamus was lying in a puddle of mud, she always lay in the puddle of mud when it was a hot day. The mud helped her cool down, but the other animals never liked spending time with the hippopotamus when she was so dirty. The elephant child walked into the lake next to the hippopotamus and sucked in some lake water using his long trunk. The elephant child tried to hold the water in, but he couldn’t, he launched his trunk into the air and water shot out showering the hippopotamus. The elephant child saw the hippopotamus’s red eyes and could see that she was very angry.
‘Ah! How did you pour that water on me’ she asked the elephant child.
The elephant child was sorry for getting the hippopotamus wet, and had thought the hippopotamus liked the cold water from the lake.
‘I used my trunk’ he told the hippopotamus. ‘I thought you liked the cold water and now you are clean!’
The hippopotamus agreed and she asked the elephant child if he would continue to shower her for the rest of the day.
The next day the elephant child was playing in the jungle when he saw the ostrich. The ostrich was looking for sticks so she could build a nest for her egg. The ostrich was always looking for sticks because as soon as she finished building her nest she would forget where it was. She would then have to start over again. The elephant child used his trunk to pick up the sticks until he created a large pile. When the ostrich saw that there were no more sticks on the floor she was very angry with the elephant child.
‘Oh! How did you pick up all of those sticks and put them in a pile?’ she asked the elephant child.
The elephant realised that the ostrich thought he had been trying to steal the sticks!
‘I used my trunk’ he told the ostrich. ‘I thought you could use the sticks for your nest!’
The ostrich agreed and the elephant child and the ostrich decided to build the nest together.
When the elephant child and ostrich finished building the nest, the elephant child was worried the ostrich would forget where it was. He took the last stick from the pile and started scratching the stick on the forest floor. The scratches created lines on the floor, and these lines joined together making letters and then words. The ostrich watched the elephant child amazed.
‘What does it say?’ asked the ostrich.
‘It says that your nest is behind the second tree next to the lake’ replied the elephant child.
The elephant child taught the other elephants how to pick up sticks and write on the forest floor. Whenever the other animals needed to remember something they would ask the elephants, who had written everything down. And that is why they always say… ‘An elephant never forgets!’.
Play the ‘Elephant Never Forgets’ Game! Sit or stand in a circle and take it in turns to say an animal. For every new turn the pupil has to name every animal previously said in the correct order, before adding a new animal to the list. This is a great activity to warm-up your pupils minds and tongues at the beginning of an English lesson.
How can we bring adventure into our classrooms?
Like the elephant child, children need adventure in their lives to gain new experiences and learn lessons that they cannot find in a traditional learning environment. They desire lessons that allow them the freedom to go on their own adventures, where they can explore a little more of the world and find the answers to their questions. Just like the elephant child, we need our pupils to earn their trunks and then learn how to use them. One of the reasons children love stories, is because of the adventures they experience when they read them. We can allow our pupils to choose their own books to read, putting them in control of their own adventure. Having chosen their story, the pupils have started their own personal journey into the mysterious word. Just like the elephant child they are enthusiastic because they are on their own learning journey, a journey where they might teach us teachers something too, just as the elephant child teaches the adult elephants how to have long trunks and then how to use them. Having chosen their book we should encourage our pupils to explore the story in their own personal way. Perhaps they want to write a letter to one of the characters, maybe they want to perform a role-play of one of the chapters from the book. They could even play a word game, using the new vocabulary they have learnt in the story. Ask your students to find ten words they have learnt from the story and write each word on a piece of paper. Each student takes it in turn to take a piece of paper and act out each word. The rest of the students have to guess the word! After our pupils read a part of the book we can allow them to choose from a range of activities. We must give them time to explore around the story, because the learning adventure shouldn’t be rushed. Imagine our pupils are reading the elephant child and they decide to create a poster about elephants. It’s important we facilitate their learning and adapt to their needs. If the project is taking a long time, but the pupils are enthusiastic about learning about elephants, we should adapt our lessons to facilitate the learning adventure they are pursuing. Having given our pupils more control of their learning they are going to want to stay longer in school at the end of the day to finish their own adventures.
TO GO FURTHER
Choose three books, we propose:
Allow your pupils to vote for the book they want to read.
Read the first chapter of the book as a class, and ask the pupils to think of three questions they would like to ask the main character.
Prepare four activities for pupils to do after reading each chapter of the book, for example:
- Perform a role-play
- Do a vocabulary activity and then play a vocabulary game
- Create a poster
- Write a letter to the elephant child
Allow your pupils to choose an activity and give them time to explore the story through that activity before moving on to the next chapter.