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The Beauty Contest (A Story for Kids)

by: Jill Richardson

Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 23:25:25 PM PST

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Lately, I've been trying to teach myself about the native plants in the San Diego ecosystems (sage scrub, chaparral, oak forests, riparian, etc). I grew up in the midwest so most plants and animals I learned about there as a kid are irrelevant here. And, to be honest, I never learned that much as a kid. I don't think the grownups in my life knew much themselves. As an adult in a quasi-parental role, I'd really like to teach "my" kids (the two kids I love like my own who aren't actually mine) what I'm learning about local ecology, indigenous traditions, and edible and medicinal plants.

If you've got small children, then you know that story time is one of the few times you've got their full, undivided attention. They sit, they listen, and they learn. They ask you to re-read their favorite stories until they memorize them. So I've started writing short stories for my kids about the local plants and animals. My dream is to have them illustrated and made into a book, because they aren't as effective without pictures. But for now, I'm planning to pack a bunch of treats, take the kids and their friends for a picnic in Mission Trails, and tell the stories to them there.

Most of the stories aren't terribly helpful for folks who live outside California, but the one below can be adapted to your local plants with a bit of quick internet research.

Jill Richardson :: The Beauty Contest (A Story for Kids)
The Beauty Contest
All of the flowers in San Diego decided to have a Beauty Contest. They all agreed that a contest was a great idea, but they ran into trouble when they met to write the rules. Who would be the judge?

"Let's let the bees judge our beauty! They are flower experts because they spend all their time buzzing around flowers to gather pollen and nectar," suggested the white sage.

White sage flower, Salvia apiana (Apiana refers to bees and this is sometimes even called "bee sage")

"Yeah!" agreed the black sage.

Black Sage, Salvia mellifera (Mellifera is Latin for "honey-bearing")

"That's no fair," argued the Misison Manzanita. "Bees love the purple flowers on San Diego's native sages. You guys would win. Let's have the hummingbirds judge our contest!"

Mission Manzanita flowers

But everyone knew that wasn't fair either, because hummingbirds love nothing more than to sip the sweet nectar from the Mission Manzanita's small pink flowers.

"How about the moths?" suggested the Mohave yucca. But nobody agreed, because they knew that the moths and the Mohave yucca were best friends. Every year, the yucca moths would lay their eggs inside the Mohave yucca flowers.  Neither the moths nor the Mohave yucca could survive without the other.

Mohave Yucca. It has a fascinating relationship with the yucca moth.

"Let's let people judge the contest!" cried the poppies. People chose the California Poppy as the California state flower. No doubt they would select it as the most beautiful too.

California poppy

"Oh who even needs a beauty contest!" griped the willow. But everyone knew that she was just complaining because her flowers were catkins without any petals. Most people who saw them couldn't even tell they were flowers at all!

Willow catkins

Only the Mexican Elder agreed with willow. "Why don't we have a contest about whose flower is the most useful," Mexican Elder suggested. "For example, MY flowers help you feel better when you have a fever!"

Mexican Elder flower

"Yeah, but what good are they when you don't have a fever?" asked the California wild rose. "MY flowers are beautiful and fragrant all the time."

California wild rose

In the end, the flowers could not agree on a fair and impartial judge, so they contest had to be cancelled. Instead, they all agreed, that everyone was a winner in their own way. Every single flower is the most beautiful to somebody, be it a person, a bee, a hummingbird, or a moth.

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Ha! (4.00 / 1)
Brilliant.  Certainly beats the stories I make up for the kids in my life... ;)

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