The Bridge of the Golden Wood by Karl Beckstrand + STEM Activity

Karl Beckstrand is a prolific author of 30+ multicultural children's stories.  He has written stories that take place in a variety of countries around the world and has written stories in multiple languages.  Four of Karl Beckstrand's books have been featured on Kelly's Classroom Online so far:

🍎 Anna's Prayer (Sweden, United States)
🍎 Ida's Witness (Sweden, United States)
🍎 It Came from Under the High Chair (English, Spanish)
🍎 Great Cape O' Colors (English, Spanish)

Today's blog post is the fifth one about one of Karl Beckstrand's books... The Bridge of the Golden Wood.  The Bridge of the Golden Wood is a modern-day folktale/parable that takes place in China and that teaches children about the importance of helping others and saving money.  Keep reading to learn about this book and for a STEM building activity and economics minilesson ideas inspired by the book!

The Bridge of the Golden Wood by Karl Beckstrand is a modern day folktale about good deeds & helping others. STEM + economics + ELA minilessons.

Author's Summary

“What are you looking at?” asked the boy.
“Trouble and treasure,” said the old woman...
  
A child with a knack for solving problems helps some hungry fish and is rewarded. This illustrated folk tale teaches children how to spot opportunities to help others and the value of saving their money. Endnotes have ideas for money-making activities for kids and a list of online resources.

🍎 Title: The Bridge of the Golden Wood
🍎 Author: Karl Beckstrand
🍎 Illustrator: Yaniv Cahoua
🍎 Publisher: Premio Publishing & Gozo Books
🍎 Date: January 25, 2017
🍎 Pages: 32

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The Bridge of the Golden Wood by Karl Beckstrand

About the Story

The Bridge of the Golden Wood by Karl Beckstrand is a multicultural folktale that takes place in the forests of China.  A little boy and his red panda are playing in the woods when they find an old woman sitting beside a stream.  He asks the old woman what she is looking at and she replies, Trouble and treasure.  The boy follows her gaze and sees a school of fish.  The fish can't swim downstream because trees and branches are blocking their way.  He sees the trouble right away... but is confused because he doesn't see any treasure.

The old woman sees his confusion and tells him he will receive treasure if he moves those trees and branches to let the fish swim by.  So... he moves the trees and branches.  When he turns to the old woman to collect her treasure... she's gone!  The boy will eventually get his treasure... but he won't be getting it right away and it's not the kind of treasure he expects...

The Bridge of the Golden Wood by Karl Beckstrand

Language Arts Minilesson About Fables, Folktales, and Parables

The Bridge of the Golden Wood by Karl Beckstrand is a modern-day story that is told in the style of a traditional folktale or fable. It can also be described as a parable.  Before reading The Bridge of the Golden Wood with your students, you may need to talk about the similarities and differences between a fable, folktale, and parable:
  • A parable is a short story that teaches a moral or spiritual lesson. The characters in the parables are human.
  • A fable also teaches a moral or spiritual lesson.  However, the characters in fables are animals.
  • A folktale is a story that is passed down from generation to generation.  
While I was reading The Bridge of the Golden Wood, it felt like I was reading a folktale... it felt like I was reading a story that could have been passed down from generation to generation.  I asked Karl Beckstrand about this, and this is what he told me:

I typically didn't enjoy lessons growing up. But hearing stories... that was fun... even if I happened to learn something in the process. I wanted to show how helping is good for all involved, so a folk tale seemed the way to show it.  -Karl Beckstrand, author

The Bridge of the Golden Wood by Karl Beckstrand

Language Arts Minilesson About the Moral of the Story

The Bridge of the Golden Wood is the kind of story that can have more than one moral or lesson... it is a parable.  After reading The Bridge of the Golden Wood with your students, ask them what they think the moral of the story is. Do they think the moral of the story is about helping others? Helping animals? Doing good deeds? Do they think the moral of the story is about hard work or saving money?  Give your students some time to reflect on this and to write in their reading notebooks.

I asked Karl Becjstrand what morals and lessons he wanted children to learn when they read The Bridge to the Golden Wood.  This is what he told me... how does it compare to the morals and lessons your students came up with?

The story for Bridge of the Golden Wood developed in my mind as I thought about how few people seem to know that looking for ways to help is a way to gain earning skills. Even if you serve someone and don't get monetary compensation, you acquire problem-solving and other skills--not to mention the reputation of a helper--that can pay off down the road. -Karl Beckstrand, author

The Bridge of the Golden Wood by Karl Beckstrand

STEM Activity

During the story, the boy made a bundle of branches and laid it on some rocks and across a stream. People started walking on the branches as if they were a bridge.  This 'bridge' made from branches is the inspiration for the STEM activity below.

STEM activity. Build a bridge using only drinking straws and tape. Must be capable of bearing a reasonable amount of weight.

This STEM activity focuses on the Engineering and Math components of STEM.  The objective of this activity is for your students to design and construct a bridge with only straws and clear tape that can span a distance of one foot and bear a reasonable amount of weight without collapsing.

STEM activity. Build a bridge using only drinking straws and tape. Must be capable of bearing a reasonable amount of weight.
This simple bridge spans a distance of one foot...

Materials

For this STEM activity, your students will need:

STEM activity. Build a bridge using only drinking straws and tape. Must be capable of bearing a reasonable amount of weight.
...and can support the weight of this rock...

Before sending your students off to design and build their bridges, you may need to take the time to review and/or introduce a few geometry concepts that can help them with the design process:
  • types of angles (acute, obtuse, and right)
  • two-dimensional shapes
  • three-dimensional shapes
  • units of weight

STEM activity. Build a bridge using only drinking straws and tape. Must be capable of bearing a reasonable amount of weight.
...but collapses under the weight of this rock.

Directions

  1. Hand your students a bundle of 15 straws, a roll of clear tape, and some scissors. They can work independently or with a partner.  Remind your students that these straws represent the bundle of branches the boy moved out of the stream.
  2. Give your students 20 to 30 minutes to design and construct their bridges.  The ONLY items they can use are straws, clear tape, and scissors.  They can cut the straws into smaller pieces if they'd like.  It is up to you to decide if you are willing to give them additional straws if they run out... hehe... I always do!
  3. When the time is up, test each bridge to see how much weight it can hold.  Talk about the things that were successful and brainstorm strategies to make each bridge stronger.
  4. Give your students an additional 20 to 30 minutes to modify their designs and make any changes.  Then test the bridges again!

STEM activity. Build a bridge using only drinking straws and tape. Must be capable of bearing a reasonable amount of weight.
How can we improve this bridge's design... my cat wants to know!

Economics Minilessons

When Karl Beckstrand wrote The Bridge of the Golden Wood, he wanted to teach children about the benefits of service-learning... helping or serving others to make the world a better place.  He also plants the seeds for some economics concepts you can integrate into your social studies lessons and units:
  • Service learning: The boy helps the old woman, the fish, the people who cross his bridge, and his family.
  • Goods and services: The boy provides a service by letting people cross his bridge.
  • Opportunity costs: The boy gave up his playtime to help the old lady and the fish.  When he did, he received something better in the long run.
  • Saving money: The boy saves the money he earns, so he can help his family.
  • Earning money: The boy earns gold by allowing others to use his bridge.
  • Spending money: The boy spent his earnings on the things his family needed.
  • Careers: Building and maintaining the bridge was the boy's career... his chosen way to earn money as he got older.
Can you think of any other economics skills that can be taught through The Bridge of the Golden Wood?  If so, tell us about them in the comments below!

The Bridge of the Golden Wood by Karl Beckstrand

To learn more about The Bridge of the Golden Wood, please visit Karl Beckstrand's website at PremioPublishing.  You can also watch the trailer for the book on YouTube.


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