A Course in Dignity for Young Children

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The following course is designed for the parents and educators of young kids to engage with their children about dignity as part of Global Dignity Day. (Or at any time of the year!) Read the Short Story below and then explore the Discussion Questions to uncover the meaning of treating others the way you would also want to be treated!

The Rainforest Rescue

A Short Story

Sylvie the three-toed sloth lived in the South American rainforest. She spent her days hanging upside down in her favorite Cecropia tree. Her long claws helped her hold onto the branches, while her friendly face smiled with happiness each time she saw the beautiful plants and creatures around her.

Some of the other rainforest animals were not so friendly to Sylvie. They noticed how she rarely seemed to leave her spot in the tree. When she wasn’t munching on leaves, she was sleeping.

“Slowly Sleeping Sylvie,” a monkey called her one day while swinging from branch to branch. His shrill cry was soon heard by the hummingbirds that lived high in the treetops. One by one, they flew down to catch a glimpse of the furry sloth, their wings flapping furiously fast!

“Her face looks a bit flat,” said Harriett the hummingbird as she flew around Sylvie’s tree.

“And there’s algae growing in her fur,” added Hugo the hummingbird in a loud, chirping voice.

Sylvie heard the other animals and felt hurt that they were teasing her, although she knew inside that the things they made fun of were the special features that made her so unique.

On his way back up to the treetops, Hugo was chased by a hawk looking for a lunchtime meal! To avoid the hawk’s hunting swoops, Hugo quickly flew to the left, and then to the right without noticing the large Cecropia tree trunk in front of him. CRASH! He collided with the tree, became dizzy, and fell many feet below until he landed with a loud thud!

This thud woke Sylvie, who had fallen back asleep in that same Cecropia tree. It seems her belly had made a nice landing pad for Hugo, who would’ve fallen to the ground without the soft cushion of Sylvie’s tummy!

“Hello,” Sylvie said while slowly opening her eyes.

Hugo wondered why she was smiling at him after all, he’d just interrupted her nap! It didn’t take him long to realize that his wing was bruised, and as he tried to flutter away from Sylvie, he felt just how badly his little wing hurt! His wings, usually able to flap many times each second, simply could not do their job!

“You can rest here as long as you need to,” said Sylvie.
“What if the hawk comes back?” Hugo asked, looking nervously from side to side.
“Don’t worry I’ll protect you,” said Sylvie, whose greenish, algae-covered fur nicely hid small Hugo and blended in well with the leaves on the tree!

Hugo rested for the afternoon while Sylvie’s camouflage kept other hungry creatures from finding their next meal. Just before the sun went down, Hugo’s wing felt better than ever. He thanked Sylvie for all of her help.

“I’m sorry that I wasn’t kind earlier,” he said. “You saved my life today!” He could tell by Sylvie’s wide smile that she’d forgiven him.

Hugo hurried back to the treetops to tell his friends of Sylvie’s heroic deeds.

“I’ll bet she was stinky with all of that algae growing on her,” Harriett said.
“If it weren’t for that algae,” said Hugo, “I might have been gobbled up. It’s camouflage!”
“You must’ve been so bored being trapped by a creature that moves so slowly,” added Harriett.
“If she’d been zipping from place to place, she wouldn’t have been there when I fell,” said Hugo. “And we slow down too! At night, we’re as still as can be so we can save our energy for flying time during the day!”

Harriett cocked her head to the side. “You mean we’re a little bit like Sylvie?”
“More than a little bit!” Hugo continued. “And if she’d been just like us, she wouldn’t have been able to help me the way she did!”

To thank Sylvie for saving Hugo, the hummingbirds planned a party in her honor for that very evening.

“Should I climb up to the treetops so I can join you?” Sylvie asked when she heard about the celebration.
“No, Sylvie,” said Harriett. “We’ll fly to your tree for the festivities. Where you are is just perfect!”

by   (whyzz writer)
  • Exploration

    Sylvie the sloth and the hummingbirds in the story you just read learned how important it is to treat one another with dignity.

    Having dignity means being treated with respect AND treating others with respect.  We all have the right to enjoy a life of dignity“”to be valued for who we are, to be treated with kindness and fairness, and to enjoy health and happiness.

    Living a life of dignity means treating others the way you’d like to be treated! For example, we treat each other with dignity each time we lend a helping hand, stick up for a friend, and notice the qualities and talents that make each of us special.

    Discussion Questions:

    Sylvie the three-toed sloth was kind to Hugo even though he hadn’t been kind to her at first! How did Sylvie treat Hugo with dignity and lend him a helping hand?

    By the end of the story, Hugo was sticking up for his new friend Sylvie and appreciating the important, special qualities that made her unique! How did her slow movement and algae-covered fur help to save his life?

    It’s nice to get a second chance to make a good choice! When Hugo and Harriett realized how important it was to treat Sylvie with dignity, how did they show her they were sorry for not being kind to her earlier? (Make sure to note how Hugo and Harriett learned to truly appreciate Sylvie for who she was).

    What are some ways you can treat others with dignity? (See Discussion Points below).

    Discussion Points:

    Nursing a friend back to health and throwing a party in someone’s honor are special ways of treating the people we love with dignity, but there are simpler, equally important ways we can celebrate dignity in our daily lives! Sylvie the three-toed sloth showed dignity by treating the hummingbirds with kindness and respect, even after they teased her.

    Kids can lead lives of dignity by...

    Treating new friends and acquaintances with kindness and fairness, even if they don’t  look, talk or behave exactly like the people around them.

    Offering to help others, whether that means collecting cans of food for people in need, picking up a pencil dropped by a friend or sharing crayons with a buddy in search of art supplies.

    Taking time to notice what makes each person special. Every person has unique gifts to offer the world, from talents (like playing the piano well or being a great soccer player) to qualities like kindness, sensitivity and patience. Compliment a friend the next time you notice something special about him or her! Saying “You’re a wonderful artist” or “You cheer me up” can really make someone’s day!

    Global Dignity Day, taking place this year on October 20th, is a project of the Global Dignity initiative, an organization dedicated to ensuring that all individuals are given the opportunity to lead a dignified life.  
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