Epidemic of travel

The need to travel that I picked up somewhere in Oberlin, Ohio all those years ago seems like it may have spread, or might simply be better reported these days. It’s become an epidemic, and it affects entire families. So, coming back to ask a pack of preschoolers about their experience of movement and migration was fruitful.

I spent this past week at the Oberlin Early Childhood Center playing our way through my storytelling curriculum, the first workshop in the US-based series about the experience of migration. There were three main sessions and an interwoven whirl of small-group activities, culminating in a 5-foot tree of stories modeled on the growth of a banyan.

First : I very briefly told the story of the Hindu epic Ramayana using a kaavad, a shadow puppet, and a comic book of a sort that’s nothing less than a modern-day Indian tradition. This is an incredible story to tell, even for someone as new to it as I am – the depth of details make the story flow easily to accommodate any tangential interest. The minds of 3 to 5 year olds led to entire chapters about the animals in the story, about Indian clothing and jewelry, about the colors, about swimming, and about traveling.

Second : The Ramayana is the story of Rama’s journey (translated from Sanskrit), the prince with blue skin. The story of this person forms the basis of the exalted epic, so during my second session with each class at the OECC I told a personal travel story about my visit to the biggest banyan tree in the world. I explained the way a banyan tree grows, from the roots to the trunk to the branches that push new roots down to the ground, and brought my mala beads from the temple at Thimmamma Marrimanu for everyone to touch.

Third : All the children, who had been joining me in small groups to create the supporting trunk of our art project with papier mâché, sat down to share their own travel stories. Individually drawn & narrated, these formed the external “roots” of the banyan, the basis for the tree’s future growth. The unique, professor-filled demographic of the area built a tree of journeys to the park, the basketball court, the movies, to San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Moscow, London, New York, North Carolina, India, Ireland, and even one boy’s voyage from the toddler classroom to the pre-kindergarten group. Each of them left the tree on Friday afternoon with a colorful handprint for their autograph patterning the bark. It was amazing. I can’t wait for more.


Special thanks for your amazing support :

The staff & students of the Oberlin Early Childhood Center (I’ve promised not to name any names just yet)

Janice Zinser

Jake Wise

Russ McCann & the Oberlin bike co-op








and of course, and as usual, the students of the Sphoorti Foundation who created this curriculum with me.


1 Comment

Filed under bicycles, education

One response to “Epidemic of travel

  1. Jennifer Harris

    Your visit to Oberlin Early Childhood Center was fasinating to say the least. The stories you told of your travels left the children wanting more. The 5 foot banyan tree displaying the stories the children wrote truly culminates thier experience with you over the past week. Thank you for taking the time to travel to Oberlin. We are very appreciate of the work you did with the children. Best of luck to you!

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