Pandora's Box Re-Modeled
Students read "Pandora's Box," then create modern-day versions of Pandora's box of evil and hope.
learn about different kinds of myths.
study the myth of "Pandora's Box."
work in small groups to brainstorm modern-day symbols of evil and hope.
create modern-day versions of Pandora's box.
rate the efforts of their peers.
nature myth, creation myth, myth, Greece, Zeus. creation story, scapegoat, Pandora, good, evil
cardboard boxes (one for each group of 4-5 students)
objects (students will provide)
Begin the lesson by introducing students to creation myths -- stories that explain the origins of things. Ask students to provide examples of creation stories. (The Bible and other religious sources might be referenced.) Discuss with students the distinction between religious stories and mythology.
For additional background information, you might introduce to students to some basic material at the following Web sites:
-- The Genesis Project: Creation Myths
-- Creation Myths from Around the World
-- Mything Links: Common Themes in Creation Myths
-- Egyptian Creation Myths
Compare creation myths with other mythologies. Explain, for example, that nature myths are stories that explain natural phenomena, such as how the sun came to shine, why the bear sleeps all winter, and what caused the first hurricane.
Tell students that the myth they will read today explains the origin of evil. You might start the discussion by asking students to share any stories that explain the origins of evil they have heard. If nobody mentions it, you might bring up the story of Adam and Eve. According to the Bible, everyone who lived in Eden was innocent and immortal; Eden had an abundance of food. All that changed when Eve ate the apple and introduced evil into the world.
Ask students to make connections between Eve and other characters in literature. (My students brought up Mrs. Hutchison in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery." They said she was a scapegoat for that community's problems.)
Then introduce the story of Pandora's Box. You probably will find a version of the story in a literature anthology, or you can make copies of the story from a library book.
If you can locate it, I highly recommend a version of the story written for very young children. It can be found in the book Greek Myths for Young Children by Marcia Williams. Other sources, which can be found online, include A Brief Retelling of Pandora's Box and Episode 113 of the PBS Kids show "Between the Lions."
Pandora's Box is a story about how evil came to exist in the world; in this Greek myth, evil came out of a box. The box did contain one good thing, however -- Hope. As the Brief Retelling tells it, "So now, when there is trouble and sadness among us humans, we have Hope to make us feel that tomorrow will be better."
After sharing the story, discuss with students some of the parallels between Pandora's Box and the story of Eve eating the apple. Then ask such questions as:
Is there a moral to the story? ("Curiosity killed the cat?")
Where is the story set? (Greece)
Who is the protagonist? (Prometheus)
What was Prometheus like? (a giant, played trick on Zeus)
What did he do? (created people)
Who are other characters in the story? (Zeus, Pandora, Epimetheus)
What are those characters like? (Note: Characters in the story differ from version to version. Many versions include Zeus, who is very powerful and gets mad easily; Pandora, who is a beautiful, nagging woman, the first woman ever; and Epimetheus, who is afraid of Zeus.)
What's in the box? (evil and hatred, but also hope)
Why does Zeus give Pandora the box? (to get back at Prometheus for stealing fire from the sun)
Why would the author of this story make the opener of the box a woman?
At this point, you might introduce a discussion of how myths often blame the ills of the world on women.
The Culminating Activity
Arrange students into groups of four or five. Provide each group with a cardboard box and explain to students that they are to create modern-day versions of Pandora's Box. After decorating the outside of the box to look like a treasure chest, students will brainstorm the contents of the box; they must put inside the box five or more objects that represent evil, and two or three things that represent hope. For example, students might cut out news headlines about terrorism, anthrax, and crimes to represent evil. One of my students put in a watch to represent evil, saying that we are all bound by time thanks to Pandora. For hope, students have included a cross, a Bible, a picture of a doctor, and so on. Let your students go with their imaginations and see what results! (The activity might require bringing in objects from home.) Then have each group share its box with the class. Groups should retell the story of Pandora before presenting their boxes, and each student in the group should explain his or her addition to the box.
Students write a paragraph in which they explain which group's presentation is best and why they think so. Ask: What did that group do to make their presentation the best? Was your choice based on the preparation they did? the power and depth of their thinking? the creativity shown in the creation of their box? something else?
Anita Wadhwa, Lee High School in Houston, Texas
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