Wonderful tales and legends in environmental education

Wonderful tales and legends in environmental education

By Bárbara Saulesleja

“To educate oneself is to impregnate the practices of daily life with meaning”. Francisco Gutierrez

We know that the stories and legends of native peoples allow us to transform our lives. Do you remember any of these stories that touched you?

For that to happen: you have to listen to them with your heart, so as not to kill the symbols that they keep inside.

And what is a wonderful story?

They occur in an indefinite time and usually there is a hero or a heroine who will have to go through certain difficulties to be victorious. Normally there is a magic element that gives a power to the protagonist (protagonist (a cape, a hat, magic drinks, etc).

Jaime Rest [1] defines it as "an exhibition of fabulous and supernatural events presented in fiction as actually happened, it is abundantly illustrated by popular and anonymous repertoires" ...

Are legends, myths and tales the same? No. Although they have different meanings. The natives themselves consider many of their stories to be true, and some of us call them myths and others as tales, which some of us call legends or tales proper.

These elements inspire us in the adventure that implies being alive and being creative and not passive before the wonder of life.

In this sense, environmental education, also called eco-pedagogy, aims to train planetary citizens.


As you heard it: "planetary citizens." Human beings capable of inhabiting the planet. Critical and conscientious citizens, interested in their environmental rights and responsibilities. When this citizen is organized, he acquires political power and the capacity for collective change [2].

And how to get there? Let's look at 3 fundamental processes that certain stories invite us to: being critical and informed, inviting us to Action, inspiring us.

The wonderful stories

Another element that characterizes the wonderful story (in the traditional story), is the effect of miraculous fulfillment of wishes and requests. That is to say: making contact with obstacles and gaining access to unexpected resources to obtain victory.

And this aspect is inspiring for those who are interested in improving in this world.

The obstacles that we find in this sense are multiple: there are obstacles in the environment, in the bureaucracy, in corruption, in vanity, in ourselves.

And we tend to fall into a kind of "nonsense" where it seems that what we do has no possibility of influencing the reality that concerns us.

The wonderful tales passed down from generation to generation come to us as a key legacy to encourage us to continue the battle, to inspire us and to know that at the end of the story we will triumph. They give us back hope.

"The fulfillment of our desire does not depend on our fears or our efforts, but on the infinite that is in our desire" mentioned some students of wonderful stories.

And he continues “If our desire contains the infinite, the infinitude of possibilities will come to it, it will communicate with it and it will respond to it, as the fairies do in stories. (…)

The fecundity that is within us is what contains the transforming power ”.

According to the authors Brasey and Bailleul (1999 [3]), the story presents three characters that appear in one way or another: the King, the Hero and the Fairy.

These characters can be related to three keys to environmental education.

Let's look at a possibility:

King: Assess clutter, think and define goal. Learn to ask everything. We are going to relate it to being critical and informed

Hero: Burning, learn to experience it all. We are going to link it with the Action

Fairy: fertility. Learn to do everything. To the fairy with inspiration

Train critical citizens: informed but not formatted. This implies that access to quality environmental information must be linked to the ability to cross-examine and question the different values, the different positions. All this coupled with a vision of history, its processes, its debacles, and oppressions.

Citizens who also know what to do with the information.

Because environmental education is transformative action.

Action: When we combine knowledge, ideas, proposals, creativity with action, we have the transformation of society. If this does not happen, the process dies in the swamp of ecophobia [4]: ​​like phobia, the fear of hearing about environmental problems presented in a way in which one individually and collectively cannot do anything. "If I can't do anything, I don't want to listen to you." This is one of the learnings of environmental education for this century that is beginning: We must inspire organized and transformative action. To the power of individuals and groups to transform reality.

The inspiration it is part of the whole process (just like action and critical knowledge). And it is the beautiful closure that inspires more actions, more transformations that are weaving a new reality together with knowledge and action.

These three aspects of wonderful stories are three key aspects of environmental education.

The story as self-knowledge

"The market and political power are much more interested in producing and selling than in promoting development processes of human beings" [5].

Self-knowledge is then a true revolution.

The stories in this sense are intended to make us aware. They constitute for us an ancestral memory maintained through popular stories in which their apparent insignificance has been subtracted over time.

Stories like that of Clarissa Pinkola Estés in "Women who run with the wolves" open us a perspective on the healing power of stories, on the relationship between that healing and that knowledge allow us to recover our wild roots and get in tune again with the nature.

The stories take place in different natural environments: whether they belong to Africa, America, Europe, Asia, Oceania.

We also meet authors such as Brothers Grimm, Perrault, Andersen.

Creativity opens perspective

Story "The spirit of the bottle"

Wonderful stories invite us to live "everything is possible."

Remember the Endless Story? Where in the swamps of Sadness hopes are drowned and it is the Nothing that is consumed at all, against which the heroes of history have to fight. Is it similar in this sense to consumerism that devours everything? The heroine or hero who has to fight to regain consciousness?

An example: The spirit of the bottle, of the Grimm brothers. It teaches us about the gift of creativity, of curiosity. Joyful and creative work, enjoy, enjoy while we study, work, love, eat.

This recreates an interior space, that interior space that Dolly Camuso [6] mentions as the first environment. She says: to have environmental awareness we have to be aware of that environment first than ourselves. This we ourselves goes hand in hand with art and creativity.

There is the case of a teacher from the Buenos Aires suburbs (Alejandra, 5th grade teacher in 2009 in Lanús) who gave her a “terrible” grade, which no one wanted.

If she survived until the end of the year they would congratulate her.

She observed the students and thought: they are restless, they do not like to spend 4 hours sitting on their benches receiving a class.

What can we do? He listened to them, saw that they were all very active and creative, that just asking them to be "normal" students was so tremendous for them, for the expression of their nature.

So they did the Ecopatrol, and they transformed the school. They planted trees, they were responsible for making traveling cans that they "walked" during recess. They were "the best students", thanks to the help of a teacher who knew how to see their gift.

On the rush and the importance of questions

Story "The water of life" (by Brothers Grimm)

In this story a magical question appears: Where are you going so fast?

The rush gives us superficiality. Not seeing.

Not seeing the other, not seeing the life of the schoolyard, of the house where we live as a family or alone, not seeing ourselves.

Here is another lesson from the story: to understand “what is at stake” you have to be awake. To life, to its magic.

Any human who loves life and marvels, can do environmental education.

And the power of the inner life, going within, allows us renewal, affirmation and projection: creative power.

Being able to do it ourselves and teaching others to make contact with this world can be another possibility to which the world of wonderful stories opens up. We will surely discover vocations and an inner source that does not run out if it is renewed.

Legends are also resources for environmental education. Very linked to heritage (natural + cultural) they allow us to value places, species, ways of connecting with nature.

The legend as a fictitious narrative, but based on reality, is the safeguard of the wisdom of a people and as such it is very important to rescue them.

Numerous versions exist on different natural phenomena. The exploration of legends leads us to find true treasures. Riches to share in environmental education days for all ages.

The Legends and Tales of the World's Communities: Their Environmental Teachings

The search, the reflection, the careful listening of the legends give us some treasures that are the environmental knowledge of the peoples of the whole world.

We are going to make a list of some of these environmental knowledge:

  • Strong communion with nature.
  • Humans that transform into animals, flowers, trees, rivers and vice versa. There is a continuity and a connection with the environment. Eg The flower of the seibo: Anahí
  • Wild aspect of the human being. This conversion of men into other components of nature shows that the human being recognizes the wild-animal aspect that it has and does not hide it, but integrates it (to read more about this topic it is recommended to read Women who run with wolves by Clarisa Pinkola Estés). For example: the jaguar aba. The Guarani man-jaguar.
  • Sustainable use. Use yes, waste no.
  • Hunting for food, yes, not for fun. Don't cut down trees for fun. Curupí, Yastai, Coquena, Pombero. They are generous, vigilant and protectors of nature.
  • Unity among human beings, respect and celebration for cultural diversity
  • Working with legends allows us to rescue these values.
  • Food and its cultivation as something sacred. Agriculture and women

Possibly in the division of tasks in which the men went out to hunt and the women to gather fruits of the forest, it was they who discovered the power of germination, and with this agriculture.

This teaching in general in the legends is given by a god to a woman. An example is Mandi or, Guarani legend. In this house, it is Tupá who tells this woman-child how to better feed her community. Cultivation and food are sacred. The gods give it to us.

Education throughout life. The rites of passage of childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age and preparation for the afterlife, is a teaching of a model of deep education throughout life.

The teachings on hygiene, on physical and spiritual purification, respect for the elderly, contempt for theft and envy, the urge to be generous and hospitable.

The search for the land without evil, of the Guarani is like the proposal of a sustainable world: an idealistic goal. "A paradise to which they will arrive, when the Earth, already tired, renews itself."

The earth as livingor. It is Pachamama

"Participation in full life", Wichi worldview. It includes not only other human beings but also animals and plants.

Deep union with the rivers, with fishing, with the land, because the gods and civilizing heroes themselves are the ones who give us the chance to experience them. An example Sipilah in the wichis, a civilizing hero who gave the knowledge to understand the river and the fishing arts.

Sense of home, of the family, of the extended family and of the village as everyone's space. As we can see in the wichis: home (hup), family (inyás), extended family (inyoj) and village (wet). [7]

The possibility of healing and heal through connection with nature and subtle plans.

Water as a collective resource rather than a commodity. The Mayans believe that humans are an integral part of the water cycle and that they contribute to its renewal through natural body fluids. The management and supply of water is the responsibility of the entire community [8].

Sumak Kawsay "Good Living" It takes its terminology Sumak Kawsay Quechua word from the ancestral Kichwa worldview of life. According to its proponents, it is present in a similar way among the Aymara as suma qamaña and among the Guarani as teko porâ or teko kavi. In its original Quechua meaning, sumak refers to the ideal and beautiful realization of the planet, while kawsay means "life", a dignified life, in fullness. The ancestral "sumak kawsay" considers people as an element of the Pachamama or "Mother Earth" (mother world). Thus, unlike other paradigms, modern good living, inspired by indigenous tradition, would seek a balance with nature in satisfying needs ("taking only what is necessary" with a vocation to endure), on mere economic growth [ 9] [10]. More on this vision of Good Living is included in the annex so that you can observe the points that this concept contains.

Promoting peace it is at the center of many intangible cultural heritage practices. The Mandén Charter of Mali (the constitution of the Mali empire), institutionalized by Soundiata Keita in 1236, is one example. This Magna Carta of Human Rights, one of the first in the world, defends values ​​such as social peace in diversity. Annual commemorative ceremonies for the historic assembly are organized in the Malian village of Kangaba by local and national authorities, and in particular traditional authorities, who see the Charter as a source of law and a message of love, peace and brotherhood. [11 ].

Come let's meet! Let's tell a story!

A source that helps us to think, to reflect, to invite us to action and inspire us are the wonderful stories, legends and other stories. The "Go" in and out, each one alone and together, walking towards a better world.

Narrating is a great pleasure and sharing inspiring stories is a pleasure for everyone.

From the perspective of environmental education, education for diversity and the enhancement of heritage, they are fundamental condiments to approach environmental issues in a pleasant way. Not overwhelming, not frightening, but inspiring for understanding and action.

The intangible cultural heritage preserved in stories, legends and all kinds of stories contributes to sustainable development. Transmitted orally, a quality education should include them and recognize their richness, taking advantage of their educational potential [12].

I invite you to come closer that we are going to share a story where we are all protagonists!

The current times are a great challenge and everyone is needed.

Bibliographic references:
Stella Duocastella (Psychologist-Writer) and her inspiring short story workshops.
Eduard Brasey and Jean Pascal de Bailleul. Live the magic of stories. How wonder can transform our lives. Edaf, Spain, 1999.
Francisco Gutiérrez and Cruz Prado R. Ecopedagogy and Planetary Citizenship. Alma y Tiza Collection. Editorial Stella, Argentina, 2000.
Dolly Camuso "We and nature", Errepar, Buenos Aires, 1996
David Sobel “Beyond ecophobia” · Sobel, D. (1996). Beyond ecophobia. Reclaiming the heart in nature education. The Orion Society, USA
Nahuel Sugobono and others, "Legends, myths, tales and other stories ..." (various communities. Longseller, 2005.
Intangible Cultural Heritage and sustainable development. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. PCI
Article by Fernando Huanacuni Mamani. LATIN AMERICA 03/18/2015
[1] Rest, Jaime (1978). CEAL, ed. Preliminary study of Anthology of the traditional and modern tale. CEAL. pp. III. Extracted from Wikipedia "Wonderful".
[2] Francisco Gutiérrez and Cruz Prado R. Editorial Stella, Argentina, 2000.
[3] Eduard Brasey and Jean Pascal de Bailleul. Edaf, Spain, 1999.
[4] David Sobel "Beyond ecophobia" ·
Sobel, D. The Orion Society, USA
[5] Francisco Gutiérrez and Cruz Prado R. Editorial Stella, Argentina, 2000.
[6] Dolly Camuso "We and Nature", Errepar, Buenos Aires, 1996
[7] Nahuel Sugobono and others, "Legends, myths, tales and other Wichis stories." Longseller, 2005.
[8] Intangible Cultural Heritage and sustainable development. PCI
[11] Intangible Cultural Heritage and sustainable development. PCI
[12] Intangible Cultural Heritage and sustainable development. PCI
Postal and electronic address of the author / s Azcuénaga 1590. PC (1663), San Miguel, Buenos Aires. [email protected]

Video: Environmental Studies and Environmental Education. EVS Pedagogy for Paper1 (January 2022).