School Programs

jon-sundell-perfect-storm-edutainment (link to general school flyer)


Jon Sundell’s varied background as a folksinger, storyteller, square dance caller, teacher, librarian, and grassroots collector of songs and tales enable him to create programs that not only support the curriculum. They bring it to life, generating excitement and making real life connections that motivate children to read and learn. The frequent use of slides helps to provide context and background knowledge, so that students can understand songs and stories more completely. They also enable him to draw connections with books that have been used as a resource or that students can use for follow-up reading and research. The descriptions below are not set programs, but possible samples. You can read them in as much detail as you care to or have time for.



See below for details.


  • Introduction to Folk Songs and Tales
  • North Carolina Folk Songs and Tales
  • Folk Tale Genres
  • Smart and Foolish
  • The Magical World of Fairy Tales


  • Songs and Tales from Around the World
  • The Wide World of Hispanic Heritage


  • What’s So Great About Reading?
  • Time Travelling with Stories and Songs
  • A Multicultural Reading Guide
  • Singing Figuratively: Figurative language in folk songs


  • A Nation of Immigrants
  • The Way West
  • The Industrial Revolution (tentative)


  • All Creatures Great and Small
  • Water – The Stream of Life (tentative)


For teachers, media coordinators, students & parents




Introduction to Folk Songs and Tales

An introduction to the folk process: passing down songs, tales, games, and traditions by word of mouth. This program explains and demonstrates why the process was previously so important and why it still happens and is fun. Jon shares simple folk songs and tales with lots of participation, demonstrates guitar, banjo, autoharp, mountain dulcimer, harmonica and spoons. He also introduces riddles, dance and other forms of folklore. For all grades, especially k-2.

Curriculum connections:  Music and writing

Sample songs and tales:

  • Song – “My Grandfather’s Clock” with autoharp
  • Song – “My Grandma’s Patchwork Quilt” with guitar
  • Story-song – “Abiyoyo” with banjo
  • Song – “Waterbound” with mountain dulcimer
  • Work song – “Long John” acapella
  • Song – “Turkey In the Straw” with spoons
  • Cante-Fable – “Sneezy Snatcher”
  • Participatory play-along with rhythm instruments


North Carolina Folk Tales and Songs 

Informative slide show, traditional folk tales & songs with banjo, guitar, mountain dulcimer, autoharp and spoons. A square dance can be added to the mix, particularly during a family evening program. Jon has collected songs and tales from traditional singers and storytellers in NC and other states. Some of these are presented in Stay With Us: Visiting with Old Time Singers and Storytellers in the Southern Mountains, written by his high school students, and can be seen on his web site.  Several of these individuals are represented in slides and anecdotes as part of this program, in which Jon shows how North Carolina folklore reflects the cultures that bear it – the sense of tradition, closeness to nature, and balance of self-sufficiency with community. Especially suited for Grades 4 and 8.

Curriculum connections:

  • Social studies & language arts curriculum;
  • Musical instruments;
  • Research project comparing and contrasting different versions of traditional songs and tales.

Sample excerpts:

  • Instrument demonstrations – banjo, autoharp, mountain dulcimer, spoons, guitar
  • Hunting song – “Groundhog”
  • Fishing tall tale –“ The Pet Catfish”
  • Nature –“ The Bird Song” banjo
  • Entertainment – Singing game – “Old Dan Tucker”
  • Coastal legends
  • African American Piedmont blues – “Trouble in Mind”
  • Cherokee legend – The First Strawberries


Folk Tale Genres 

Informative slide show, folk tales and songs – What is  the difference between a tall tale and a legend, an animal fable and trickster tale? What is a “cante fable”? What are the characteristics of a “fairy tale” and why do folklorists prefer to call them “wonder tales”? This program assembles a panoramic sampler of folk tales and legends that entertain and illuminate, while providing an overview of all the subgenres. Use of song bits help keep students engaged. Especially for grades 2, 3 & 4 – Common core standard 2.2 &  3.2

Curriculum connection:

  • Classroom study of folk tale genres
  • Kick-off to unit where students select, learn and tell a folktale as a media center or classroom activity.

Possible samples:

  • Tall tale / The Pet Catfish
  • Legend (could be a ghost tale) – e.g. “La Llorona – the Weeping Woman,”
  • Myth – Dream Journey, a Maori myth
  • Animal Tale (trickster tale and fable) – e. g. “The Fox and the Crow”
  • Fairy Tale/ Cante fable (folktale with song bits) – e. g. Barnie McCabe
  • Songs: “The Thinnest Man” (tall tale), “John Henry” (legend), ballads


Smart and Foolish

This program combines two particularly rich folkloric themes.  Songs and tales of tricksters, fools, wise men and women. Grades 3-12.

Curriculum connections

  • Classroom study of folk tale genres
  • Promotion of media center’s folk tale collection
  • Development of higher level thinking skills
  • Writing

Sample pieces:

  • Song – “The Barefoot Boy with Boots On”
  • Tale – “Steamer and the Mule Egg”
  • Tale – “Elijah and the Poor Man’s Wish” (Jewish). For living a just life the prophet Elijah offers to grant a blind man one wish. The man is torn between three desires: to have sight, have money or to have a baby with his barren wife. After asking the students for suggestions that will combine the man’s wishes, the solution is revealed:,With his wife’s advice he wishes ”that I may live to see my child eating from a golden plate.”
  • Bilingual tale – “Juan Bobo Goes to Work” – Each time Juan Bobo is paid, he misapplies his mother’s advice from a different form of payment. For example: so his money won’t fall through his holey pants, she tells him to carry his pay home in a burlap sack. When he is paid with milk, he pours it into the sack and it all leaks out.
  • Song – “Mershen Tiddery Airee” – Growing tired of her husband, an old woman gives him marrow bones to make him blind. At his request, she leads him to a cliff overlooking the ocean, so he can drown himself. Purportedly lacking courage he asks her to push him in, but when she charges down the hill to push him, he steps aside.
  • Tale – “Brer Bear is Dead!” Brer Rabbit fools Brer Fox into thinking Brer Bear is dead.
  • Tale – “The Farmer and the Donkey” (Arabian) – A thief sneaks off with a donkey walking behind a farmer by hitching his accomplice up to the rope. When the farmer discovers the change, the man tells him he was changed into a donkey for his wayward habits, but he has finally reformed and turned back into a human. The farmer sets him free with his admonition to continue in his reformed behavior. The next day the farmer encounters his donkey for sale in the marketplace. Instead of realizing he’s been duped, he admonishes the donkey for backsliding.
  • Song – “Ninety Nine and Ninety” – A boy meets the devil on a road. He has to answer nine questions or the devil will take his soul.
  • Tale – “Redmond O’Hanlon and the Wee Fella” – A young boy volunteers to collect a hefty sum of money for a merchant, although he has to pass through countryside controlled by a notorious highwayman. He plays a clever trick to accomplish his task.
  • Tale – “Clever Rachel” – Rachel so impresses a king with her wisdom by answering three difficult riddles that he asks her to marry him. They grow to love each other, but the king is angered by her interference in court cases where he shows bad judgement, and he declares an end to their marriage. He tells Rachel she can take home her favorite possession, so she invites the king to a final supper, plies him with wine till he falls asleep, then takes him home in a cart. When he awakes the next morning, he realizes his error and takes her back as his wife (and court counselor).


The Magical World of Fairy Tales

Arguably the best known subgenre of folktales, fairy tales or “wonder tales” continue to captivate imaginations, so much so that loads of “fractured” fairy tales, prequels, sequels, and alternate versions have been written in recent years. This program explains basic ingredients often occurring in wonder tales – magical events, transformations, stock secondary characters, underdog main characters, and lessons in social behavior – and applies them in sample tales. Some of the traditional tales are matched up with recent versions. Grades 3-8.

Curriculum connection:

  • Classroom study of folktales
  • Follow up projects: researching fairy tale “motifs” (elements)in different stories; comparing and contrasting fairy tale variants; creating a new fairy tale or alternate version of a traditional tale; or learning to tell fairy tale

Sample tales:

  • Fairy tale- “Rumplestiltskin.” Novel, Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin, by Liesl Shurtliff.
  • Fairy tale – “Estrellita/ Little Gold Star,” a Mexican variant on the Cinderella theme and excerpts from other variants. Novel, Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
  • Brief description of several novels based on fairy tales.
  • Magical ballad,- “The Two Sisters,” about a fiddle made from the bones and hair of a drowned girl. When the fiddle is played, it tells the story of how she was pushed overboard by her jealous sister.
  • Fairy tale – “White Bear Whittington,” an Appalachian variant of Beauty and the Beast where the “beast” is a white bear and novel. Beauty Queen, by Sarah Mlynowski, of the “Whatever After” series.
  • Fairy tale –“ Iron Hans”. A rare tale from the Brothers Grimm about a magical wild man and a boy he helps achieve his fortune.





Songs and Tales Around the World

Folk tales, songs, slide show, and partial costume changes.  Sample songs and tales from the program can be heard on the “One World Family” sampler on web site. School programs employ several of those songs embedded in a multicultural panorama of folk tales. Adaptable for all grades k-8.

Curriculum connections –

  • School-wide multicultural or international day
  • Research a country and its folk tales, practice the tale and present it along with a slide show or other report of the country.
  • E-conferencing with foreign students.

Sample songs and tales:

  • Song: “We’re All a Family under One Sky,” by Ruth Pelham – call-and-response song celebrating diversity.
  • Chinese tale –“The Goddess Kwan Yin” (Buddhist tale) Chin Po Wan, A rich man who gives away everything to people in need, goes to the Western Sea to visit the Goddess Kwan Yin and find out why he has no more to give to the poor. When he gives up his question to ask ones for the giant serpent, an inn keeper, and a homeowner (The goddess only allows three questions), their answers turn out to reward him and solve his own problem..
  • Bilingual song: “Mi casa es su casa,” by Michele Valeri. A traveler passing through South America is invited home by an anaconda, a llama, and a burro, who all sing, “Mi casa es su casa whenever you are near/ Mi casa es su casa, ; sit down  and rest, my dear.”
  • Bilingual Mexican tale – Tía Miseria –An old lady is plagued by rude boys who trample her garden, eat her prized pears and tease her mercilessly. Through kindness to a mysterious traveler, she acquires the magic gift to make anyone stay up in her pear tree till she releases them. She uses it on the boys – and on Death, when he comes to take her away at the end of the tale.
  • Turkish tale – Nasradin Hoja’s’s Fine Coat –Local wise man Hodja is invited to the wealthy muktar’s home for a banquet. Hodja loses track of time during the day and, to avoid being late, he arrives in his work clothes. After the muktar completely ignores him, the Hodja goes home to bathe and dresses up in his finest clothes. When he returns and the muktar treats him royally,  the Hodja stuffs his pockets and bathes his shirt in food and gravy, explaining to the dumbfounded muktar that it must be the clothes that are being honored, so, out of respect, he is feeding them first.
  • Round: “Vine and Fig Tree” “And every man ‘neath his vine and fig tree shall live in peace and not afraid/ And into plowshare beat their swords, nations shall learn war no more.”
  • African tale – “Anansi and the Hat Shaking Dance” While Anansi’s aunt goes to the store to get supplies, he is left in charge of the pot of cooking rice.  Yielding to temptation, he begins by tasting, then eats half the pot.. When visitors pay him a surprise visit, he hides the rice under his hat,. When they ask why he is  jumping around, he tells them he is doing the “hat shaking dance.”.


The Wide World of Hispanic Heritage 

Former director of North Carolina’s Hispanic Arts Initiative and Forsyth County Public Library’s Hispanic Services Department and a frequent visitor to Latin America, Jon is particularly well qualified to present this program on the diverse cultures of Latin America. It provides a sampling of stories, songs, and literary excerpts from the twenty countries and six territories of Latin America located in North, South, and Central America and the Caribbean. A slide show gives brief historical background on ancient civilizations, the European conquest and some modern issues. It also presents personal photos Jon has taken in Mexico, Central and South America. A display of traditional crafts enriches the experience.

Curriculum connections:

  • Hispanic Heritage Month
  • Research projects on different countries that can include interviews with Hispanic family members and other local residents.
  • E- correspondence projects with Hispanic students in other countries

Sample stories, songs and books

  • Caribbean tale: “Cucarachita Martina”
  • Song -“Mi casa es su casa”
  • Mexican tale, “Tía Miseria”
  • Song – “Cielito Lindo”
  • Puerto Rican foolishness tale: “Juan Bobo Goes to Work”
  • Sample of Caribbean music with demonstrations of rhythm instruments.
  • Peruvian tale: “Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale from the Andes Mountains”
  • Sample of Andean music
  • Excerpts from picture book: Tío Fernando: A Day of the Dead Story, by Janice Levy
  • Song: “Hasta los muertos salen a bailar,” by Tish Hinjosa
  • Book: Becoming Naomi Leon, by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  • Song: “De Colores”
  • Book: Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez, by Kathleen Krull





What’s So Great About Reading?  

Books, storytelling, folk songs, slides. Books take us both outward and inward. They open up a world of adventure by taking us to many real and imagined times and places. And by leading us deep inside the personal experiences of characters (mostly endearing ones) who are struggling to overcome problems and find happiness, they help us understand and accept ourselves. And become better people! Jon combines his librarian’s knowledge of children’s literature with his storyteller/ folksinger’s skills and repertoire to illuminate the exciting world of reading. A bibliography can be provided in advance. For any grade, but especially 3-5.

Curriculum connections:

  • Young author day
  • Summer reading kick-off
  • Support of independent reading

Possible samples:

  • A book is a world – Reading creates a whole other world where we can immerse ourselves. Fantasy and science fiction genres– possible examples: A Wrinkle in Time, Starry River of the Sky, a Snicker of Magic
  • Going on an adventure! – The truth is that real life is generally pretty dull. Books take us on exciting adventures without any risk.  Fantasy, science fiction and adventure fiction:  Possible samples: Stanley’s Wild Ride (pic book),  Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest, Found
  • Travel to other cultures and countries –Possible samples: personal slides of Japan and Latin America; song “West Virginia Mine Disaster,”  folktales – “The Cajun Possum” & “The Goddess Kwan Yin,” pic book: I Love Saturdays and Domingos, Extra Credit.
  • Time Travelling – Possible samples: folk song – Sea chanty, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Counting On Grace,  Bud, Not Buddy, Bass Reeves,
  • Enjoy the richness of  language – Poetry by Shell Silverstein, Langston Hughes, Folksong – “The Santa Fe Trail”
  • Meet new friends – There are wonderful characters we wish we knew – funny, brave, loving, and more in all kinds of genres. For example: the flamboyantly affectionate Latina, Tía Lola from Julia Alvarez’s series in her name; or the spunky and fearless Moses LoBeau in Three Times Lucky.
  • Help us through the realities of our life – The Fourth Stall, by Chris Rylander, Wild Things, by Clay Carmichael, 33 Minutes Until Morgan Sturtz Kicks My Butt, by Todd Hasak-Lowy
  • Books are funny – Everybody loves to laugh! The humor in books is much more varied than TV sitcoms. Examples: Jewish folktales of the fools of Chelm, Ungifted, Alvin Ho series, Captain Underpants
  • Give us the chills – ghost story, Goosebumps series, Doll Bones, The Graveyard Book


A Multicultural Reading Tour

To develop multicultural understanding takes more than recognizing a few outward symbols of other cultures. It requires a deeper encounter with their internal characteristics through sharing the feelings and experiences  of their members.. There is no better for students to do this than through reading about them in fiction, as well as non-fiction books. This program presents book talks, coupled with informational slides, about African and African American, Asian and Asian American, Middle Eastern, Latin American, European and European American cultures. It touches on the religions that form such an important part of those different regions and cultures as well. Possible books and themes: k-2, 3-5, or 6-8. Books adapted for specific age group.

Curriculum connections:

  • School-wide multicultural or international day
  • Assigned readings and book reviews, including section on cultures represented

Sample books:

    •  Sacred Stories: Wisdom from World Religions, by Marilyn McFarlane
    • Chicken Sunday (picture book), by Patricia Polacco
    •  A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park
    • Ninth Ward, by Jewel Parker Rhodes
    • Through My Eyes, by Ruby Bridges
    • Donavan’s Double Trouble, by Monalisa De Gross
    • In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, by Bette Bao Lord
    • Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai 
    • Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things, by Lenore Look
    • Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind, by Suzanne Fisher Staples
    • The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq, by Jeannette Winter
    • Extra Credit, by Andrew Clements
    • In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse, by Joseph Marshall
    • Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness Into Light,  by Tim Tingle
    • Indian Shoes, by Cynthia Leitich Smith (contemporary)
    • Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan
    • Pancho Rabbit and Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale, by  Duncan Tonatiuh
    • Cesar: ¡Sí, se puede! Yes, we can!, by Carmen T Bernier-Grand
    • Red Ridin’ in the Hood: and Otro Cuentos, by Patricia Santos Marcantonio
    • Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins,  by Eric A. Kimmel
    • Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories, by Isaac Bashevis Singer
    • The Devil’s Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen


Time Travelling Through Stories and Songs

Presenting excerpts from historical fiction paired with traditional folk songs, folk tales, slides and history, Jon brings this genre to life and demonstrates how it takes us inside the minds, hearts and experiences of people throughout history. Grades 4-8

Curriculum connection:

  • Fiction genres
  • Independent reading
  • Social studies history

Sample pieces:

  • The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi; with song: Sea Chanty
  • Pink and Say (picture book, by Patricia Polacco); with Civil War song
  • Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis; with song: “Follow the Drinking Gourd”
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare – Salem witch trials
  • Number the Stars, by Jane Yolen – The Holocaust
  • Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse with song: “Talking Dust Bowl”
  • Esperanza Rising, by Pam Muñoz Ryan with song: “Deportees”


Singing Figuratively: Figurative Language in Folk Songs 

Robert Frost defined poetry as “feats of association.” This program not only helps students recognize figurative language, but appreciate its value. By bringing the vibrancy and sensory impact of imagery to the idea, person, feeling or object with which it is compared, figurative language creates a more dynamic, multi-dimensional experience. Slides of the poetic image are projected on the screen to help students appreciate the impact of the figurative language.  Grades 3-12. 

Curriculum connection – poetry month or any poetry unit

Sample pieces:

  • “Santa Fe Trail” – “She had a smile like an acre of sunflowers.”
  • “Hey, Good Lookin’!” – “Hey, good lookin’, whatcha got cookin’? How’s about cookin’ somethin’ up with me?”
  • “That’s Amore” – “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore!”
  • “Fair and Tender Ladies” – “If I had known before I courted/ that love would be such a Killing  thing,/ I’d have locked my heart in box of golden/ and fastened it down with a silver pin.”
  • “Somos el barco” by Lorre Wyatt – Somos el barco/ somos el mar/ yo navego en ti/ tú navegas en mi/ we are the boat/ we are the sea/ I sail in you/ you sail in me.”
  • “Life is Like a Mountain Railroad” – “Keep your hand upon the throttle and your eyes upon the rail.”
  • “Turn Your Radio On” – “Turn your radio on and listen to the music in the air. You’re your radio on, and glory  share”





A Nation of Immigrants

Informational slide show, songs, folktales, anecdotes and fictional excerpts. Immigration is a “hot topic” in today’s world, but most children and adults do not understand the tremendous contribution immigrants have made to our country or the long, complicated history of how they have been received and treated. Jon brings the story of immigrant America alive by combining the songs and stories of English, Irish, Eastern European (especially Jewish), African, Chinese and Hispanic immigrants together with excerpts from current children’s literature and a historical slide show using primary sources. Grades 4-12

Curriculum Connection

  • Research project on an immigrant group – its reasons for immigrating, challenges, contributions. Students can choose from their own ethnic group, including African American, or another.
  • Working with primary sources

Sample songs & tales (mixed in with historic slide show)

  • Theme song – “I Am an Immigrant,” by John McCutcheon
  • Irish tall tale –“ Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato,”
  • Irish chapter book – excerpts from Nory Ryan’s Song, by Patricia Reilly Giff
  • Irish folk song“No Irish Need Apply”
  • African book talk – A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park
  • African American folk song – “The Grey Goose”
  • Turkish folk tale – “Nasradin Hoja’s Fine Clothes”
  • Jewish book talk – Letters from Rifka, by Karen Hesse esse
  • Chinese myth – “The Ragged Emperor”
  • Chinese book talk –: In the year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, by Bette Bao Lord
  • Hispanic song – “De Colores”
  • Hispanic biography – Cesar Chavez: ¡Sí, se puede! Yes We Can!


 The Way West

Songs, anecdotes, historical background and primary document slide show. No topic more encapsulates the mythology of our country, with its contradictory mix of adventure, hardship, and exploitation, than the story of Westward expansion. Especially for grade 5

Curriculum connection: Kick-off for research projects on 19th century America wherein student pairs research one aspect of this topic, examining and presenting different points of view.

Sample pieces:

  • The journey west – Song – “The Santa Fe Trail”
  • The pioneer experience – Little House on the Prairie vs folk song, “Starving to Death on a Government Claim”
  • Westward expansion impact on American Indians – song, “Thunder Rolling In the Mountains” – the Nez Perce
  • The Mexican American War – song, “Santy Ano”
  • The Transcontinental Railroad – true story of John Henry


The Industrial Revolution & the Fight for Workers’ Rights

This program focuses on the textile industry, coal mining, and the farm worker industry, the fight against child labor and the fight for labor unions and better working conditions. Powerful, expressive songs about those industries and movements are presented along with anecdotes, history, and booktalks, against a backdrop of slides. Grades 5 up. Sample content:

Curriculum connection:

  • Using primary sources
  • Social studies curriculum – 2oth century

Sample pieces:

  • Songs -.“Cotton Mill Girls”, “Aragon Mill,” “Babies In the Mill.”
  • Excerpts from Lyddie, by Katherine Paterson; Counting on Grace, by Elizabeth Winthrop
  • Song -, “Which Side Are You On?”, “The Blue Diamond Mines,” “Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia”
  • Excerpts from Growing Up in Coal Country, by Susan Bartoletti; Whistle In the Dark, by Susan Hill Long; The Breaker Boys, by Pat Hughes
  • Songs – “De Colores,” “Deportees.”
  • Excerpts from Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan; Voices From the Fields: Children of Migrant Farm Workers Tell Their Stories; Amelia’s Road (pic book), by Linda Altman;

The Circuit, by Francisco Jimenez

  • Biographies of Mother Jones and Cesar Chavez


All Creatures Great and Small

Folk songs and tales, information, slide show – Folklore is filled with a myriad of wonderful songs and tales reflecting the animal kingdom. Relating these to real life information provides an entertaining and useful exercise in comparing and contrasting fiction with non-fiction. Especially suited for k- gr 3.

Curriculum connection -Kick-off for 2nd, 3rd, or 4th grade students doing research project on an animal, researching animal facts & possibly another folk tale or song

Sample songs and tales:

  • Song: – “All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir,” by Bill Staines – “All God’s critters got a place in the choir, some sing low and some sing higher/ some sing way up on the telephone wire/ some just clap their hands, paws, or anything they got now.” Describes that animal kingdom as a three tiered choir, as in “Listen to the base, it’s the one on the bottom/ where the bullfrog croaks and the hippopotamus/ moans and groans with a big to-do/ the old cow just goes moo.”
  • Song – “The Fox Went Out On a Chilly Night” (can be seen on Griffith Elementary video) – Told sympathetically from the Fox’s viewpoint, this old English folksong describes a Fox as  he goes out to a local barnyard and brings home a goose to his family.
  • Tale – “The Cajun Possum” (can be seen on Griffith Elementary video) – In this tall tale from Louisiana A Cajun man recounts how he thought he killed a possum, but after he sold the hide to a fur trader and put the possum in the oven, it stood up in the pan, ate the potatoes, drank the grease, ran out the door, carried off a chicken – and reclaimed its hide from the fur trader’s stretching board! “Now, that’s someting, huh?”
  • Song – “Oh, Groundhog!” Describes a family hunting for, cooking, and enthusiastically eating groundhog!
  • Song – “The Bird Song” – A leatherwing bat, redbird, bluejay, owl and swallow each comment on their manner of courting.
  • Song – “Little Birdie” –  A lively but poignant mountain song describing several songbirds. “Little birdie, little birdie/ come and sing to me your song/ I’ve a short time to be here with you/ and a long time to be gone.”
  • “Bilingual tale – “The Bossy Gallito”  – Rooster is elegantly dressed, on his way to the wedding of his Uncle Parrot, when he spies a juicy grain of corn in the muddy roadside. Unable to resist, he pecks the corn and gets his beak muddy, then spends the remainder of the story trying to boss the grass, a goat, a stick, fire, and water into cleaning him up. The cumulative tale leads him up to, “Water, quench the fire that won’t burn the stick that won’t hit the goat that won’t eat the grass that won’t clean my pico so I can  go to the wedding of my Tio Perico” Finally, he sees his friend sun (that he wakes each day) and remembers the word “please.”
  • Tale – “The Bewitching of  Sea Pink” – In Cornwall, England stingy Dame Pendar refuses to share “one drop” of her prize cow’s milk with the fairies who have put a spell on her. Thus her situation goes from bad to worse.
  • Tale – “The Boy Who Lived With Bears” – Iroquois legend of a boy locked in a cave by his uncle, who no long wants to care for him. Animals free the boy and offer to adopt  him, each describing how they live so the boy my choose. He decides to live with the bears.
  • Song: – “Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud” (hippopotamus) – Love-struck by the sight of a beautiful female bathing herself, a male hippo charges down the  hillside, bellowing, “Mud, mud, glorious mud/ nothing quite like it for soothing the blood/ so follow me, follow down to the hollow/ and there let us wallow in glorious mud!”
  • Tale – “Anansi and the Pot of Beans” – One of the many Ashanti tales about the trickster spider. Interrupted by visitors while eating a pot of beans, Anansi tries to hide his transgression by placing the pot upside down on his head. He  begins jumping around in pain, explaining that he is doing the “Hat shaking dance.”  He has been bald ever since!
  • Song – “Kookaburra” – Well known Australian folksong sung in a round: “Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree/ merry, merry king of the bush is he/ laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra/ gay your life must be ha! ha! ha!.
  • Tale – “Kill to Eat” – a personal anecdote from indigenous Australian writer,Oodgeroo, describing the day her brother broke the indigenous rule to only kill for the necessity of eating, when he recklessly wounded a beloved kookaburra.
  • Bilingual song – “Mi casa es su casa/ My Home is Your Home,” by Michele Valeri – On her travels through Latin America the author is invited home by an anaconda, a llama, and a burro, who each declare, “Mi casa es su casa/ whenever you are near/ mi casa es su casa/ sit down and rest, my dear.”
  • Song – “Jig Along Home,” by Woody Guthrie. A lively, fanciful song about various animals going to a dance


Water – the Stream of Life

Water plays such an essential role in our survival and life, and it is appropriately reflected in our folklore and literature. This program mixes scientific information, a slide show, songs, tales and fiction to examine water from a scientific, cultural and poetic point of view. Grades 3-8

Curriculum connections:

  • Science curriculum
  • Earth Day celebration

Sample pieces:

  • Song, by Bill Staines – “So Sang the River”
  • Lore of the Mississippi River – Excerpt from Huckleberry Finn
  • Comparing and contrasting the Galveston Flood & Hurricane Katrina– song: “Wasn’t That a Mighty Day”
  • Folk tale – “The Legend of Harmony Chapel”
  • The Grand Coulee Dam – Song by Woody Guthrie: “Roll On Colombia”
  • Folklore of the Sea – Silkee Legend; Demonstration of Poseidon, the squirting puppet
  • Whaling and Sailing – song, “Greenland Whale Fisheries”
  • Polluting the Waters – Song, “Garbage,” by Bill Steele
  • Song – “Someone’s Gonna Use It After You,” by Tom Chapin




 These are interactive programs  aimed at smaller groups (15-100, depending on the topic). 

 For teachers & librarians:

  • Bilingual storysharing
  • Recommended bilingual and Spanish language books
  • Teaching students &/ or parents how to read to younger siblings and cousins (1-2 sessions)
  • Teaching students to tell stories (2-3 sessions)

For students &/ or teachers:

  • Singing games from different cultures – Appalachian, African-American, Hispanic (1-6 sessions)
  • How to tell stories (3-6 sessions)
  • How to play spoons

For parents (English and/or Spanish speaking):

  • How to select and share books with young children