Badger’s Parting Gifts, by Susan Varley, tells the story of Badger and his death. Death is the theme and so educators must use care in planning activities. Some activities might include studying about Martin L King, Dr. Seuss, or anyone who the class knows who recently died and contributed to the school or society.
Life cycles are another alternative to use with this story. Set up a monarch butterfly kit, obtained from Monarch Watch, to help show how a life cycle works. Children can watch the egg hatch and became a caterpillar then spin themselves into a chrysalis and finally emerge from the pupa to a butterfly. The female butterfly laying eggs and then dying that a new generation can begin. Other lifecycles include plants using a seed, to leaves and flowers, then fruit and death when seeds fall from the expired fruit.
Read a life story about a historical personality and then have the children share their contributions getting them things about their own gifts and talents. Help students realize that every person can contribute in a unique way to their class, school, or community.
Have non-native children share how they honor decreased persons in their countries. For instance, let Mexican children share how the Day of the Dead, is different from Halloween. This way educators can incorporate geography and history into this lesson.
If using this story in a private or religious school setting, talk about how death need not end, but start a new journey, as Badger when he left the earth through the tunnel, leaving his cane and walking normally. List the good things that can happen to a dead person, specifically the lack of pain or disease in their bodies. Share how God can comfort those friends still living.
Let students write poems about death and the person that has meant the most to them. The subjects include either people or animals. Discuss how animals can have a meaningful part of a person’s life. Badger was an animal, with animal friends who discovered the gifts that he gave them. Be sensitive; because people can have as strong feelings for their pets, as for people in their lives.
Educators can use this book as a guide to talking about a disaster like a school shooting, suicide, or after a young person has died in a car accident. This way kids see that though a dead person is physically gone, the person lives on in their friend’s memories and the gifts that the person gave while still living.