For our last inclusive pod project of 2020 we let the third graders write their own version of the traditional tale, Stone Soup.
Spoiler alert: It barely involves a stone and even if you squint your eyes it does not really follow the Stone Soup narrative arch.
In this tale, an FBI Agent/British Investigator comes back to his old town to visit the restaurant where he used to work, run by the Carrot Brothers. These are played by actual carrots with faces drawn on them. One version of the Carrot Brothers included clothes, but those carrots began to rot before filming began. On his return from his FBI/ British Investigator work he is met by the rude Chugga Chugga Choo Choo family who promptly tells him to get out of town and calls him rude names like Hobo Pants. The family includes Mama, who is also a Detective/Night Watch-woman, a brother named Chubs McNubs, a sister, a father, and two birds who are just as rude as the rest of the family.
Instead of getting upset by the negative reaction to his return, the FBI Agent invites the family to the town square to make magic Stone Mac and Cheese with him. He ignores their taunts and continues to offer kindness and love among the worst insults the third grade writing team could come up with.
The rude family shows up at town square announcing they only came for the free food and that this is going to be a terrible party. Everyone contributes ingredients to the pot (there never is a stone added). The success and fun of the party causes the family to admit that they have never been to a party before, and maybe that’s why they are so rude. They apologize for how they acted now that they see the error of their ways and the benefits of kindness. In the end, our star FBI Agent/British Investigator provides them with The Book of Kindness, or rather, the “how to be nice manual” so that the family will not make the same rude mistake again.
Our students were in charge of doing everything themselves – making the sets, costumes, and writing and revising the scripts. I stayed out of it as much as I could, wanting this to be a project owned from start to finish by the students.
When the book of “How to be Nice” came up I did not commit other than to say I loved the idea. I offered no other suggestions. The boy in charge of this went to each participant and asked them to include a recommendation for the book. For Joey, we offered four suggestions he could choose from so that he was included in the book as well. He chose “Look at people when they enter the room”, which is something he is very good at doing.
The play was, of course, exactly as ridiculous as expected. And yet, even the silliness said so much about this group and how they’ve come together. After three months of working together in an inclusive setting and doing a deep dive into what it means to be a community, these students had a message for the world – be kind to everyone, even if they aren’t kind to you. Include everyone, even if they do not include you. And in the end, you never know who may change their ways. I could have made it a more coherent play, but then it would not have been their message and their creation. I never would have had the family be that mean, the carrots that silly. But I also never would have created the Book of Kindness. The message would not have been as strong or as true.
So, from our ALPS Players to you – be kind to everyone, include everyone – even if they are first mean to you. Follow the golden rule and treat others the way you want to be treated. Wave at people even when you don’t feel like it. Say nice things about people. And look at people when they walk into the room.