Beverly Cleary begins the story of a little critter named Ralph in her 1965 book, “The Mouse and the Motorcycle.” Ralph, who lives in Room 215 in the Mountain View Inn, meets Keith. Along with Keith comes his easy-going father, neat as a pin mother and, most importantly, a little red motorcycle. Ralph seeing and admiring the motorcycle, ends up falling into a trash can with it. His accident allows him to meet Keith, who befriends him and teaches him how to ride the motorcycle. Their adventures and misadventures make “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” a wonderful book for teachers. Projects based around the themes of the book provide solid learning tools for the classroom.
Acceptance: While Ralph’s mom worries that he is associating with others that are not like him, aka people, Ralph has learned that, in spite of their great differences, Keith and he can become loyal friends. With your class, adopt a child from another country through a reputable agency. Collect coins, cans and have fund-raisers to cover the monthly cost. Encourage all of your students to write letters to the child and, in turn, share the child’s letters with your class.
Friendship: Keith provides food for the mice and Ralph finds a way to get medicine for Keith. Friends take care of each other. Teach your students about friendship through a grandparent adoption program with a local nursing home. Provide materials for your students to use to make cards and simple gifts for their adopted grandparent. Arrange opportunities for the students to visit with and learn from them at the nursing home center. All of the students should remain in a room together with their grandparent.
Make a classroom book about friendship. Encourage students to write about what makes a friend and to share stories about their special friends. Make a list of what makes someone a good friend and what you have to do to have friends. Make a copy of the book for each child and one for the classroom.
Loyalty: Ralph risks his life to find medicine for his friend. In fact, the very medicine he finds has caused death to mice. Discuss loyalty. Look at loyalty through the lens of friendship and then expand to other areas of life. Have students create posters or PowerPoints that highlight the realities and benefits of being loyal to ins’s friends, one’s country and to one’s self.
Sharing: Keith and Ralph share a lot throughout the story. Teach your students to find ways to share by giving them a group project to work on about the book. Working in groups of two or three, have each grouop create a poster, a comic strip or a diorama. Give each group some of the supplies they will need as well as extras that they can share. Do not tell them to share. Let them discover the joy of sharing as each group works to complete their project. At the end, discuss sharing and then have them share their creation with the class.
There are many more projects that can be created from “The Mouse and the Motorcycle.” Base them on events in the book or other ideas and ideals, such as obedience or problem-solving. Your students will love the projects as much as they will love Ralph.