Historically, all cultures, regardless of
whether they had an oral or written tradition, used stories to communicate
their core values from one generation to the next. Indeed, that
intergenerational transmission of values has always been the most
important work of a civilization.
There are a number of reasons why stories are
so effective in communicating values.
Stories are interactive.
No doubt these are the reasons why the world's
greatest moral teachers have always used stories to teach eternal
principles and truths.
- They teach by attraction rather than compulsion
- They invite rather than impose
- They capture the imagination and touch the heart
The Cornerstone Values Curriculum recognizes the
importance of stories in values, or character education, and places
their use at the heart of its teaching strategies.
There are three ways stories can be used.
A series of Cornerstone Values Readers, a resource
using the third method, will be published, as funds become available.
This series will provide busy teachers with both a resource and a
- Read and left without comment or discussion to do their own
- Read until a values issue is raised. At which point the values
issue is explored through discussion
- Read through to the end and followed by a set of discussion
From The Walnut Tree is the text of a Cornerstone
Values Reader, which highlights the values of obedience and honesty.
While respecting that it is copyright please use
it with your class or as a model to develop your own resources. Your
comments would be appreciated.
FROM THE WALNUT TREE
Jack and his younger brother Matthew had built
a two-storied tree hut in the old walnut tree at the bottom of the
garden. It was a wonderful place, hidden high in the thick branches
and overlooking the neighbouring golf course.
by John Heenan
They had used all sorts of building materials.
Sheets of iron, old sacking, a large packing case, and a piece of
clear plastic that was once the end of their father's hydroponic
gardening shed. Mother had found them a set of faded curtains and
a damaged Venetian blind that she had stored in the garage after
redecorating the spare bedroom. She suggested that they might like
them for the window.
The boys'parents were helpful and encouraging
with their building project. However, they had one rule and they
expected it to be obeyed.
Jack and Matthew could use any of their father's
tools and all the nails they wanted, but every tool and the box
of nails had to be returned to the garage workbench at the end of
Usually, the boys were careful to obey but one
night they forgot the nails. They were left outside for two nights!
On the first night it rained and when Jack discovered
the nails two days later many had started to rust.
Father was not very pleased and stopped the
boys from building for two whole days.
When the hut was finished Jack and Matthew held
an opening ceremony. Mum, Dad and Sister Moira were invited as special
The family climbed the four-meter rope ladder
that Dad had made and pulled it up behind them. Mum and Moira squashed
inside the bottom story with the boys while Dad sat outside on a
Everyone enjoyed the Coke and crisps that the
boys had bought with their pocket money and the cream cake that
mother had carefully carried up the rope ladder.
The boys, and often Moira, played for hours
in the tree hut. Sometimes they imagined that it was a pirate ship.
At other times it was a jumbo jet, a rocket on its way to Mars or
a medieval castle. Moira liked it best when it was a rescue helicopter
on its way to some emergency.
One summer's afternoon, Jack and Matthew sprawled
lazily in the upper storey and gazed across the golf course. They
watched a group of five golfers play their way towards the twelfth
hole, not far from their walnut tree.
Four balls landed cleanly on the manicured green.
The fifth went way beyond and came to rest in a little hollow behind
a tuft of rank grass.
From where the boys sat the white surface of
the little ball glistened in a shaft of sunlight.
The golfers searched everywhere. They bent the
taller grass with their clubs and scoured the boundary fence.
The ball's owner, an elderly man in a tartan
cap, kept returning to the area where it lay hidden from his sight.
Jack and Matthew still as tuataras *. They scarcely
Soon the golfers gave up looking. The elderly
player in the tartan cap took a new ball from his golf bag and played
When the golfers were out of sight Jack and
Matthew scrambled down the tree and grabbed the golf ball.
They were so excited as they rushed into the
house to tell their parents.
"Look what we've found!" they yelled from the
And, as they burst into the kitchen, "A brand
new golf ball!"
"Where did you find it?" asked Moira.
"By the tree hut " replied Jack.
"How do you know that it was lost?" quizzed
"Because we saw some golfers looking for it,"
"Then you know what to do with it," said Mother
and Father almost in one voice.
Jack and Matthew's excitement evaporated as
they walked towards the golfers' clubhouse.
* Tuatara ( say too- ah- tah-rah ) an ancient reptile that
lives on some islands off the coast of New Zealand.
- Describe the tree house as you imagine it to be.
- What would you enjoy about living in Jack and Matthew's
- After the boys had left the box of nails outside what might
their father have said to them?
- When the boys saw the golfer lose the ball, what could they
- What would have happened if they had done each of these?
- What is meant by sitting as still as a tuatara?
- Were Jack and Matthew dishonest when they said that they
had found a golf ball?
- What do people mean when they talk about a "half truth?"
- What did the boys' parents mean when they said, "Then you
know what to do with it?"
- Why was it important that the parents made the boys return
the golf ball?
- How did Jack and Matthew show respect for their parents?
- In what other ways do children respect the authority of
- What events in the story have consequences?
- What did you learn from this story?
Published with permission of John Heenan,
The New Zealand Foundation for Values Education Inc.