Discussing the issues in The Journey Home with children and young people.

A few ideas for parents, teachers and anyone seeing the show with children

We hope you enjoyed your visit to the Little Angel Theatre to see The Journey Home, and that you found the puppetry and music an effective and captivating way to tell Frann Preston Gannon’s moving and powerful story.

We’re sure you (and any young people you may have brought with you) will have lots to think and talk about following the show, and you may find yourself on the receiving end of a lot of questions, so we’ve put together a few ideas to help you talk about some of the issues in the show and places where you might find more information about conservation and the environment.

Answering difficult questions:

Depending on your point of view, you may feel that the show has raised issues and led to questions which you might find difficult to talk about with a child (perhaps because they are sad things to think and talk about, perhaps because they are about the harsh reality of the way the world works or perhaps because you simply don’t know the answers!) Hopefully though, it provides an opportunity to discuss issues that we should all be aware of.

Be sure to keep the development and age of the child in mind when answering any questions – it is great to discuss the issues in more depth with children, but don’t feel that you have to answer more than you are being asked – e.g. if a very young child asks why did the Orangutan have to leave its home, they may, at this stage, only need the answer that the trees were being cut down, rather than a long explanation about deforestation!

Of course, with children, one question usually leads to another, but they will usually be your guide in how much information they need or can handle on a particular topic.

Finding out together:

If you are finding it really difficult to answer questions, maybe the best idea is to simply say ‘let’s try and find out together.’  You could:

Visit your local library – you are sure to find a range of non-fiction titles, picture books and stories which deal with some of the issues in the show.

Use the internet – there are some excellent websites aimed at children which give simple and factual information about the challenges faced by wildlife. Some links are provided at the end of this document.

Focus on positive actionIt can be easy for discussions about endangered species and the challenges facing our environment to become overwhelming and negative, but by focussing on small actions we can take that can help the situation, children and young people can feel a sense of control over the situation and also become well educated in the way we need to care for our planet. Ultimately, the problems around environmental damage and endangered species are linked to human consumption of resources. If we try to be more careful about what we use, what we buy and how we dispose of things, we can make an impact on the problems faced by our planet.

What questions do children ask about The Journey Home?

The Journey Home has toured around lots of schools and performed to hundreds of children, who have asked some very interesting questions! Here are a few answers to some regularly asked questions;

Why are the animals leaving their homes?

In the case of the Polar Bear, Orangutan and Panda, the animals’ habitats (homes) are being destroyed because of the actions of human beings. This might be because of humans building more homes and factories, or because humans are taking the resources from the animal’s habitat (e.g. cutting down the trees for wood/logs) or doing things that damage the animal’s habitat. The elephant is trying to get away from hunters who want his tusks. In very simple terms, it would be better if humans were kinder and more thoughtful towards the animals who share our planet!

Why can’t the animals just live somewhere else?

Each animal has a different habitat or ‘ideal home’ – the place where it can find the type of food it needs (perhaps a particular type of plant, or other animals to hunt), the right amount of space, where the temperature is just right, where it can safely raise its babies and where it can live with other animals of the same species. Some animals only have one place like this in the whole world (e.g. the Panda) and if that place is destroyed, the animal is in danger. How would we feel if our home was in danger?

Why do people want to hunt elephants for their tusks?

Elephant tusks are made from ivory. Ivory is hard and white – it is a bit like a tooth. It has been used throughout the ages to make things such as piano keys, snooker balls, buttons and ornaments. Even though we can now use plastic or other materials to make all these things, people in some parts of the world still think Ivory is very valuable and desirable, so they still want to buy things made from it. Hunters want to make money, so they want to get elephant tusks to sell.

What was the bird on the island at the end?

The bird on the island was a Dodo. The Dodo was a bird who couldn’t fly. It is now extinct because sailors who arrived at the place where it lived hunted it for food, and the animals that the sailors brought with them, such as pigs and dogs, also liked to eat the Dodo’s eggs.

What does extinct mean?

If something is extinct, it has died out. An animal is extinct when there are none left in the world.

Finding out more:

There are lots of places to find out more about the issues of the show, endangered animals and looking after the environment – here are just a few good ideas:

  • As well as the picture book of The Journey Home (Frann Preston Gannon), other useful books are Oi, Get Off our Train (John Burmingham) The Lorax (Dr Suess) and Window or Where the Forest meets the Sea (Jeannie Baker) Programmes & Films: even firm favourites such as Bambi & Octonauts deal with related issues. Videos and information which might be useful to older children or adults wanting to find clear/simple ways to explain complex issues around consumption and the threat to the environment can be found at www.storyofstuff.org

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