March 6, 2010

ESL Project, with monkeys and snakes


There's a traditional African folklore that goes something like this:

Content monkey sits eating fruit in tree.

To her surprise, she hears a plea for help from below and sees a menacing-looking snake. The snake explains that he needs the monkey's help to cross a nearby river, since all the rats on this side of the river are gone, and he's starving. The monkey has been warned of the calculating snake who tells this exact story, convinces a monkey to help him cross, and then eats the monkey.

The snake brushes off the monkey's story and shares a story that he's heard: about fearful monkeys who kill all the snakes, allowing the rat population to multiply, eat all the fruit the monkeys once ate, and all the monkeys starve.

The monkey hasn't heard this one but realizes that she has a lot to lose by not helping the snake. In the end, the monkey decides to take the risk and help the snake cross the river. The snake doesn't eat the monkey. The monkeys have lots of fruit on their side of the river. The rats, however, don't fare so well.

The illustrations above are part of a series of animatics created by Ian Greeb for a children's ESL show smallpower is currently in the process of developing. As with smallpower's previous work, the new project will allow the team to use a combination of traditional and new educational approaches (including the use of familiar stories like the one above) to teach English and to address issues related to HIV/AIDS. The show will be targeted towards secondary school-aged children and their parents.

We've already begun work on exploring this new territory with RQLV's quiet and imaginative Kabe, whose presence in Season One caused some controversy in the family as Mami and the kids feared that he may have contracted AIDS from his parents, who had recently died of the disease. Though Mami and the kids soon learn the truth about modes of contraction, Kabe continues to face harassment from kids at school who relentlessly bully him and spread rumors. With the help of Kokodikoko's storytelling skills, Kabe retreats into his own fantastical world and imagines how the monkey and snake story might very well have some lessons he can learn from.

You'll have to stay tuned to see how it all works out with Kabe! More worlds to come very soon!



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