There are many fine folktales to help a teacher approach bullying prevention, promote awareness and engage listeners in thoughtful discussion. In this issue, I have provided my adaptation of “How Beetle Got Her Beautiful Colors,” a folktale from South America. I hope this story will serve as an example of how a difficult subject can be safely explored with K-8 students. I have found that following the telling of this tale, it is easy to introduce age-appropriate activities to get kids to better understand bullying and why zero tolerance is essential.

A Story to Tell

“How Beetle Got Her Beautiful Colors”

(An adaptation of a Brazilian folktale by Glenda Bonin © 2012)
There are many interesting beetles all over the world, but there is one beetle in South America that is so beautiful that people mistake her to be a polished gemstone when they first see her.
It is said that a long time ago, Beetle was plain, Beetle was ordinary, Beetle was the color of the earth. When she walked along a path, she had to be very careful because she looked like a small stone and other creatures might step on her. But Beetle did not mind, she learned to walk on the side of the path. Beetle was happy to be in the world.
Beetle had one problem, and that problem was Paka, a grey rat. Whenever Paka saw Beetle, he teased her. He would say to her, “Beetle, you are plain. Beetle, you are ordinary. There is nothing special about you! Look at me! I am beautiful.  No one even knows you exist. Beetle, you are ugly.” And then, Paka ran away laughing.
Beetle felt bad about what Paka said to her, but her mother had told her that whenever anyone was mean, all she had to do was ignore them, and eventually they would get bored and go away. And that is usually what happened.
The problem was that Paka started to look for Beetle, and each time he found her, he thought of new ways to taunt her. One day when he was telling Beetle how fast he ran and how slow she crawled,  a parrot in the tree above spoke up,  “Paka, Beetle, I think the two of you should have a contest.”
“A contest,”said the rat. “I love contests, and I always win. What will I get when I win the contest you propose?”
“Well,” replied the parrot, “I suggest you have a special race, and to the winner I will award a
coat – a coat made any way you wish. But once this race is over, the loser must promise never to bother the winner again. The race will start now below this tree and stop at the mango tree over there.”
When the race started, Paka thought about how his new coat would look. When he glanced behind him, and he did not see Beetle, so he was certain he had won. But when he screeched to a halt at the base of the mango tree, Beetle was sitting on a branch, waiting for him.
“How did you get here? Did you cheat?” asked Paka.
“No,” said Beetle, “I flew.” And she lifted up her hard shell and showed the rat her beautiful, delicate wings.
“You never told me you could fly,” accused the rat.
“You never asked me,” replied Beetle.
So Paka crawled away to find a rotten log to hide in.
The parrot asked Beetle what sort of coat she would like to have. As Beetle looked up at the parrot, she noticed all the greens in the trees, so she asked for a coat of lovely greens. As she was saying this, a bit of golden sunlight could be seen through the leaves, and she asked to have a bit of sunlight on the coat as well.

That is why, to this very day, some of the beetles in Brazil have a gem-like coat of many shades of green with a little bit of sunlight peeking through. Perhaps one day, you will visit Brazil and see this beautiful beetle yourself!
Suggested Classroom Activities
Following are a few activities to introduce to your students after sharing “How Beetle Got Her Beautiful Colors.”  This kind of story exploration works well with other folktales you might tell that feature bullying.
1) Have the class recall the story progression. (The object here is to involve as many students as possible in contributing to “what happened, and then what happened next.”) K-1 students might enjoy drawing parts of the story and sharing their art with the class.
2) Some classes may prefer to act out the story in teams of 3 to 5 for their peers. The three major characters can be portrayed, and additional characters (forest animals who watch the events unfold, but otherwise do not become involved) can be introduced, as a storyteller (or two) tells the story. This works best if the actors mime their parts as the story is being told.
3) Ask students to talk about the different characters in the story and discuss how each one acted or responded to specific behavior.
4) Invite teams of 2 or 3 to examine this story to see if respect, tolerance, differences and responsibility are evident.

5) Discuss if this story might apply in real-life situations.
For the Very Young Child
The conflicts in folktales often come about because of problems with bullies. In familiar stories like the “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” “Three Little Pigs” and “Cinderella,” the bully is ultimately thwarted. For young children these stories provide excellent opportunities to talk about how to recognize bullying behavior.

Brazilian Beetle
How to Tell This Story
The trick to telling this story is your ability to imagine each scene as it takes place. Please do not try to memorize the story. Instead, think of the tale as a short movie, and recall what happens in each scene as you tell it to your audience. If you forget a part, simply stop for a moment, look at the audience and say, “I forgot to tell you something important,” and after you tell them what you forgot, resume the story where you left off.
This story is fun to tell if you like doing the “voices” of each character as they speak. By introducing the story as the storyteller, and changing into a slightly abrasive and self-important voice for Paka the rat, this character will quickly come alive in your listeners’ minds. (This is not to say that you must do this. Every storyteller has his or her own way to tell a tale, and what works for you might not work for someone else. Please feel free to tell this story any way you wish, and consider my suggestions just that – suggestions.)
When you are the storyteller, use your natural voice and look directly at the audience. When speaking Paka’s lines as he talks to Beetle, look down at the ground where you imagine Beetle to be. When the rat talks to the parrot, you should look up as if looking at a bird high up in a tree. When Paka talks to Beetle at the end of the race, he would look slightly up to where Beetle is waiting and where you imagine a lower branch of a tree to be.
When you get to the part where Beetle speaks to the rat at the end of the story, give her a softer or sweeter voice and imagine that you are no longer talking to the rat from ground level, but perhaps just a bit above the rat’s head from the branch of the Mango tree. When Beetle considers the colors she wants for her coat, look up into the tree as she speaks and imagine all the beautiful and different greens in the forest. When she “sees” the sunlight, imagine how the sun sparkles as it peeks through the branches of a tree. If you are able to do this, many of your listeners will respond by imagining the same sort of beauty they might have encountered in nature.

Don’t worry if you can’t easily come up with a different voice for the parrot.  Using your own voice when you speak the parrot’s lines will work just fine. Always remember, however, that the parrot never leaves his high perch in the tree, so he always looks down when he speaks to Paka and Beetle.

Beautiful Beetle

Websites for Educators

The Internet has many fine resources for people who are interested in the subject of anti-bullying. Here are just a few to get you started.

ADL Curriculum Connections  –Anti-Bias Lesson Plans and Resources for K-12 Educators. The site provides an extensive bibliography of children’s fiction on bullying and other excellent links.

Stop Bullying Now – This site offers a wide range of information for teachers, parents and professionals in the field. Listings include support information, books, videos and conference opportunities. There is even an area devoted to cyber bullying.

Story-Lovers World – Jackie Baldwin provides resources for stories and books to include in an anti-bullying program.