Tapping-Out-Tales Together


This short opening sets the tone and plot for a new story being developed with Mrs. Barker's 4th Grade Class. It's part of a project made possible by the vitally important Water Festival. In addition to being a writing skills development exercise, we hope to deliver a lesson that prompts a meaningful conversation about conservation. Ooh, that sounds kind of scary. Not to worry. YOU are going to make it "fun".

Here's how: read the groups of choices and choose the ones you like best. The last entry will be to pick a title. Before you submit one, try to figure out what the tale is about. Ready?...

Glad you want to give it another go. Or, you can Tap Out a Different Tale.

Like me, this concept, is a work in progress. eMail me what you liked, how to improve, and if you'd like me (and young students) to write more of these Tap-it-out-Together Tales.

*If you're a parent or educator and you'd like to create a story or learning game with me in your class or at an educational event, I'm game. Start the conversation by sending me an eMail.

Directions go here.

xxxThe Coolness of Less

I’m not going to lie, I have more than once xxxthought of throwing all my sister’s xxxfashionable footwear into the fireplace. A few months ago, I dreamt Wanda had accidentally run the vacuum over all her xxxLululemon leggings. I woke up thinking xxxlife is great until I saw Wanda arranging xxxumpteen different outfits across her bedroom floor.

Last Thursday, I came xxxan ant's whisker away from taking a dozen of her Nike crop tops to xxxGoodwill. It’s not that I wish her emotional harm or physical pain or that I don’t love my sister. It’s just that Wanda Winthrope needs to xxxget a grip on reality.

She's a materialistic maniac. An amazon.com amazonian. A 365-day a year xxxsquanderer. When I try to discuss her zest for excess, she snaps back, "xxxmind your own bananas."

Not cool. Yet according to her friends, Wanda is totally cool. She's also mega talented. She has appeared in three TV commercials, danced in four YouTube music videos, and modeled for five magazines. Even got a cover. Yeah, she’s that xxxinsanely gorgeous.

At times, Wanda is wicked funny. Mostly she's xxxkind of nice, generous, too. She used the money from her TV commercials to buy the family a big screen TV. Of course, we had to watch her commercials xxxa trillion times. The big downside to my superstar sister, like I tried to explain before, is that when it comes to stuff – stuff she wants – she’s xxxinsatiable.

My dad pretty much summed it up one night when we had Wanda and her three best friends du jour xxxKemma, xxxGianna, and xxxMaddyn out for dinner. It was Wanda’s fifteenth birthday and she insisted we go to xxxBarney's Beef Barn. She ordered like nine appetizers, xxxprime rib for everyone and the most expensive desserts on the menu. When I gave dad one of my “really” looks, he just flung his arms up and sighed “whatever Wanda wants, Wanda gets.”

I don’t blame him. Fifteen years of trying to parent Wanda Winthrope xxxwould break anyone. I mean even if Dad can afford the check, can our planet cover the disastrous water bill? Yes, I said water bill. Time to put on your horn rimmed glasses and join me in the Nerd Zone, while I explain.

To produce enough feed for one beef cow takes about 450 gallons of water a day, plus five gallons of service and drinking water. That comes to nearly 500,000 gallons of water in the animal's lifespan. If you figure a slaughter house gets 450 to 480 pounds of meat per head of cattle to retail, that means it takes 920 gallons of water to produce an 8 ounce steak! (Warning: if you try to check the math on this, there's an 87% chance your head will explode!) Since Wanda insisted on the king’s cuts, which are nearly double the normal portion, the water needed for each entree was xxxequivalent to taking a ten and a half hour shower! Do you see where I am going with this, xxxpeople?

Wasting water is everybody’s business and Wanda Winthrope, sister or not, may be the world’s most xxxreckless water waster. Okay, I’ll admit it was her birthday and she may not have been focused on how much water goes into cattle raising. But how about when it comes to drinking water?

Wanda refuses to drink from the tap even though bottled water requires 25% more water to produce. She lets the bath water run between six and seven minutes until the temperature becomes, in her words, "xxxbearable.” If that’s not excessive enough, the girl bathes at least twice a day. When I remind her of how much she’s depleting our most precious resource, she pooh-poohs me.

“Your baths require 35-40 gallons of water. Even with the new water saver, your showers suck out two gallons per minute.”

"It’s not like I shower for an hour,” she retorts. “It’s a little wake-up sprinkle.”

"More like a monsoon. This morning you showered for 29 minutes!"

“Are you timing me?”

“I was knocking on the door, begging to get in.”

“That’s xxxcreepy. We have two other bathrooms. Yes?”

“Not with my toothbrush in it.”

“Oh, pooh. Are you trying to make your favorite sister feel bad?”

Sure, Wanda’s my favorite. She’s also my only. And yeah, I am, trying to make her feel bad. Make that feel xxxhorrible. It’s obviously not working. So I try harder.

“You know water is vital to the survival of the world!” say I.

"Thank you, Captain Obvious,” returns Wanda in her soothing, yet highly condescending way.

“Do you know that the average American uses 176 gallons of water a day and you use about 400?”

“Not everyone can be average.”

“Millions of entire families in Africa only use 5 gallons a day.”

"Ooh, yuck. Why would people do that?"

“It’s not their choice. They don’t have access to safe water.”

Wanda tosses me one of at least a dozen empty spring water bottles xxxscattered around her room and says, “fill this up and send it to all the African families you know… Oh wait, you don’t know any? Then here’s a thought. Don’t worry about it. It’s not our problem.”

I try to point out that with climate change, the current drought, growing population, and decaying infrastructure, it may soon be our problem.

I blurt, “think of Flint, Michigan!” I doubt Wanda cares or even knows what these fellow Americans have had to contend with since their pipes started rotting more than a year ago.

“Flint, what? Sorry, sunshine, I barely have time to think of which top to wear to dance practice never mind what's going on in Minnesota.” Wanda gives me her classic backhanded wave xxxsignaling she’s had enough of me. I back out of her room. A nanosecond later, Wanda’s door slams me in the face. Her full length poster of Kendall Jenner nearly jabs me in my nose. Wanda dangles a doozy of a deal through the door. “If you promise not to xxxharangue me with more of this water nonsense, I’ll bring you back a latte extra large. 'kay?”

An extra large latte! Not 'kay. Not even remotely okay. She must be mistaking me for her dance pals xxxJoshua, xxxLuke and Matthew. Yeah, Wanda and her crew cap off all their athletic activities with xxxcopious consumption of meaningless conversation while sipping totally inefficient fluid regeneration. I’m not saying they shouldn’t rehydrate, but why not gulp down 12 ounces of good old tap water, instead of needlessly luxuriating with an unhealthy concoction that requires more than 50 gallons of nature's finest to produce.

Okay, maybe I’ve gone a little xxxfanatical since attending this year’s Water Festival and learned about a hundred things we do everyday that may be depleting our fresh water supply. Wanda’s friend xxxKemma calls me the water weirdo. xxxGianna says I'm cray-cray. I hope they're right. Because "people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." That's not me. That's Steve Jobs saying that. I'll take my crazy over Wanda’s insanity, because her wasteful ways are going to leave us high and dry.

I'm now on a super stealthy secret mission to get Wanda Winthrope to xxxchange her behavior when it comes to wasting water! The question is... how?

Educators and Parents...

Adhering to the DO-and-YOU-will-LEARN philosophy, kids and I have been doing stories like this for years. Now as a kind of app, you can do it without me. Please let me know what you think. If you want me to create more of these email WE WANT MORE.

Make Contact

On second thought, if you're as excited about engaging students in creative thinking as I am, invite me to your class or educational event. We can brainstorm your story. If you're not within my sphere of travel, maybe we can iChat, Google or Skype call. To get the process started, shoot me an email. Cost?... You decide what it's worth to you and what you can afford.

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