cit·i·zen·ship  [sit-uh-zuhn-ship, -suhn-] - Noun

The character of an individual viewed as a member of society; behavior in terms of the duties, obligations, and functions of a citizen: an award for good citizenship.

Do your share to make your school and community better:


                                                                            Get involved in community affairs

                                                                            Stay informed; vote

                                                                            Be a good neighbor

                                                                  Obey laws and rules

                                                                   Respect authority

                                                                             Protect the environment


Citizenship includes civic virtues and duties that  prescribe how we ought to behave as part of a community. The good citizen knows the laws and obeys them, yes, but that’s not all. She volunteers and stays informed on the issues of the day, the better to execute her duties and privileges as a member of a self-governing democratic society. She does more than her "fair" share to make society work, now and for future generations. Such a commitment to the public sphere can have many expressions, such as conserving resources, recycling, using public transportation and cleaning up litter. The good citizen gives more than she takes. (information taken from

Citizenship, like the trait Responsibility, is one that encompasses many traits. To be a good citizen, one has to do service to one's family, village, and country. In order to build a community, a good citizen will be there to help when there is a need. This could be through scouting, or a church, or community group, or joining the armed forces. A good citizen relies on being cooperative with others to get things done quickly and orderly. It could take on causes - like protecting the environment, helping a neighbor, or getting the vote out. A good citizen respects authority by following the rules and laws. However, a good citizen will not sit idly by when there is injustice. A good citizen will speak out and take action through the courts or other civil means to bring the injustice to the attention of others, so things can change.

In the story "Kanu Above and Kanu Below" the characters demonstrate many character traits. They all work together to show what it means to be a  good citizen.

QAR: Sometimes, people have aggravating habits - like talking too much or being sloppy. Can you make a list of other aggravating habits people have? (being late, texting while at a restaurant, eating with one's mouth full, not paying attention, etc) These are habits that people have...does that make them bad people? These same people could be funny, skillful, smart, and talented. What can you do when your friend has an aggravating habit and it bothers you? (tell the person in a nice way, avoid the person, find out why they are doing it, etc.)

In the story I'm going to tell you, there are four characters who have some very annoying habits. Let's find out what happens to them.


                                            Kanu Above and Kanu Below

                                 A Cumulative story from Limba, West Africa



      Kanu Above and Kanu Below were both great chiefs. Kanu Above was known to be cruel

      and harsh and lived in the skies. Kanu Below was known to be fair and good. He lived on the   

      earth with his beautiful daughter. He loved her very much.

                       But one day Kanu Above said, “I want her to come and live with me.” So Kanu Above took her up to

Sky Country, while Kanu Below sat alone. He wept for his missing daughter and began to neglect his

chiefly duties.


One day his under-chief came to Kanu Below and said, “I must speak with you. Someone  has come

into our village who is making trouble. His name is Spider, and he is weaving sticky webs over

everyone’s doorways. People are tripping and hurting themselves. What shall we do?”


Kanu Below said, “Send Spider to me.” Spider came and listened as Kanu Below explained why he

should not spin harmful webs across people’s doorways. Then Kanu Below went back to his people

and said, “We will keep Spider among us for a while. Yes, he has caused some difficulties, but he

also has much good in him.”

And it was so.


Two days later, Kanu Below was approached by another under-chief, saying, “Oh, Kanu, now another

stranger has entered our village. His name is Rat, and he is sneaking into our people’s houses and stealing

rice, meat, and koala nuts.”


Again Kanu Below asked that the stranger be brought to him. “Rat, you cannot go into people’s houses and

take things that not yours.” And again, Kanu Below spoke to his people, explaining that Rat had done some

terrible things but he had much good in him and they would keep him in their village.

And it was so.


Before he knew it, Kanu Below was once more approached by a troubled under-chief. “Kanu Below, we

have yet a third stranger who has entered our village. This time his name is Anteater, and he is digging up

everybody’s backyards. People are falling into the holes and breaking their legs. This must not go on!”


“Tell Anteater to come to see me.” Kanu explained to Anteater that he must not dig holes, because people

were falling into them. Then he spoke to his people saying, “I think we should keep Anteater in our village.

Yes, he has caused some trouble, but he also has much good in him.”

And it was so.


Time passed, and one day the under-chief approached Kanu Below and said, “Kanu, another stranger has

entered our village. His name is Fly, and he is biting and stinging people on their necks and on their behinds.

Whatever shall we do?”


“Tell Fly to come to see me.” Again Kanu explained how his people must not be bitten. Then he said to his

chiefs, “It is true that Fly has hurt many people, but he has much good in him as well. I think he should stay

in our village.”

And it was so.


Many days passed, and Kanu Below was still very sad and spent most of the day weeping for his missing

daughter. One day he called his people together and said, “If only someone could climb up into the sky and

speak to Kanu Above about my daughter. Perhaps he would listen and return her to me.”


Most people were afraid of Kanu Above because he was so powerful. So no one volunteered to go.


Then Spider, in a little voice said, “Kanu Below, I will go for you. I will spin a web up, up into the sky.”


Then other three voices joined Spider’s and said, “You have treated us well. We would like to help, too.”


So it was that Spider spun his web and fastened it onto a cloud. Spider, Rat, Anteater, and Fly climbed it

and began walking around Sky Country, calling for Kanu Above. “We come from Kanu Below who misses

 his daughter very much. Can you please return her to him?”


Kanu Above heard them and approached, glaring at them. “Very well, come and sit down and we shall

have some food. His eyes shifted back and forth and he whispered something to one of the servants.

Fly decided to follow her to the kitchen. He saw her take a packet from her pocket and sprinkle it on the meat.


When the food was served, Fly buzzed to his friends, “Do not eat the meat! It has been poisoned.”


                    So Rat, Anteater, and Spider said, “Thank you, Sir. But we do not eat meat in our country.”  Instead they

                    politely nibbled from their bowls of rice and palm oil sauce.


Soon it was time to go to bed. They had no sooner entered their sleeping quarters when they heard doors

and windows being locked from the outside. Days went by, and they had nothing to eat or drink. Finally,

Rat said, “This is a job for me,” and began gnawing through  the wood. Then he went to various houses

and stole rice and nuts and meat and fed his friends.


Kanu’s men saw that they were still alive. They brought brush to set fire to the house. Anteater said,

“Here is a job for me.” Anteater began to dig. Faster and faster he dug. Finally he dug a hole right under

the wall. The four friends escaped.


Kanu Above said to himself, These creatures are very clever!


He explained to them: “I will return the child if you can pick her out from all the other children here.”


Fly buzzed into the dressing room and noticed one girl who received no help from the others. She had to

braid her own hair and put on her own beads, bracelets, and ankle jewelry.


Fly flew back to his friends and cautioned them, “The girls will all be dressed alike, but watch which

one jumps. That is our friend’s daughter.” Fly buzzed over all the girls and, spotting the one he knew to be

 the “outsider,” he bit her. Whoop! She immediately jumped.


The four friends grabbed her and said, “This is the one! We choose her!”


Kanu Above said, “You are very clever, indeed. Take the girl, and here are four koala nuts for her father,

 to show my admiration for the four of you.”


So the four friends climbed back down with their precious cargo and presented the happy girl to her father,

 along with the four koala nuts.



 “See this,” Kanu Below said to his people. “You wanted to banish these four from our village, but it is they who

 have returned my daughter to me. I am so grateful to them that I have decided they will be my under-chiefs."

                And it was so.


RIGHT THERE - What did Kanu Above do that made Kanu Below sad? (took his daughter) What four things did Kanu Below give the four friends to give to Kanu Below? (koala - or Kola - nuts) What was the reward that Kanu Below bestowed on the four

THINK AND SEARCH - This story, like many African stories relies on things being named and happening four times. Can you name some of them? (the number of animals, the aggravating habits, the number of times that the under-chiefs came to Kanu Below, the number of times Kanu Above tried to get rid of them, the number of times the animals used their gifts to foil Kanu Above, they were given four koala nuts) Name the four animals (spider/webs, rat/gnawing and stealing food, anteater/digging holes, fly/biting and stinging) and the aggravating habit each had.

AUTHOR AND ME - Look at the four animals and their habits. How did those habits help them find and save Kuna Below's daughter? (each habit ending up being the very "skill" that was needed at the moment) At the end, what made Kanu Above change his mind about the four animals? (they proved to be very clever) At first, it seemed as if Kanu Above was nice to the four friends, but then then fly became suspicious...Why? (at first Kanu Above "glared" at them and then his eyes shifted back and forth and he whispered something into the servant's girl ear). What actions told you that he was not be trusted? (he tried to poison them, he locked them inside a house, he set fire to the house)

ON YOUR OWN - Below is a list of character traits. Think of ways in the story that the characters did or did not demonstrate that they had them:



Kanu Below had integrity because he did not follow the recommendations of the chiefs.



He did what he thought was best (even though it was not what others wanted) - to give the animals




 a chance










When given a second chance, the four animals needed to prove that were trustworthy. .








They did by following through with their mission to bring back Kanu Below’s daughter









 Kanu Above proved untrustworthy (not truthful) when he feigned being friendly to the four animals,









 but was secretly trying to kill them

















Spider, Rat, Anteater, and Fly did not give up when they faced the challenges given to them



by Kanu Above.



 They kept going using their talents until they rescued the Kanu Below's daughter

















Each animal in their turn did what they could do to achieve their goal





























Kanu Above did not show self-discipline when he kidnapped Kanu Below’s daughter. He saw

something he wanted and just took it with no regard for others.




































Kanu Below was fair. He knew the animals had problems but he saw goodness in them and was willing to



give them a second chance.  Kanu Above was not fair. He’d rather kill the animals than give something




back that did not belong to him.















At first the four animals did not show good citizenship. They annoyed others in the village; they stole from



them and they destroyed property that hurt others. Only after Kanu Below talked to them did they try to be



good citizens.


















The women in the village cared for Kanu Above by fixing food and later by preparing the daughters to



present themselves to the visitors. However, they did not show caring for Kanu Below's daughter











Both Kanu Above and Kanu Below demanded a lot of respect. One was out of fear and the other for his



fair and just ways












The animals empathized with Kanu Below when they saw how sad he was.












No one in the village wanted to take the responsibility of bring back Kanu Below's daughter. The four 



strangers, however, did accept that responsibility - especially since Kanu Below had been kind to them.












Kanu Above did something that could have caused a great war between those on the earth and those in the



sky - he took something that did not belong to him. Instead of causing a great war to get the Kanu Below's



daughter back, the four animals were able to impress Kanu Above with their cleverness and thereby



peacefully bring the daughter back home.








                         What do you think the moral of this story is? (take any reasonable answer)

*We must try to believe in the innate goodness of people and, if they fail, give them a chance to prove themselves before banishing them

*Some challenges seem too daunting. But, if everyone does his/her part, great things can happen.

*Even though others may have annoying habits, they may also possess good qualities too. It is far better to concentrate on what is good about a person than what is bad.


In the story, each animal had to take on leadership. Here is an exercise that storyteller Angela Davis used for Middle School:

Angela Davis – activity:

One exercise I do with kids at the onset to foster leadership is challenge them to place themselves in line according to their birth date. There's a catch. They can't talk. They have to find another way to communicate with each other. Over the years, I've seen tapping out dates, using their fingers to show the date and month, blinking, pinching, and writing ( afterwards, I included no writing and NO hurting others in the directive). Once the kids achieve success, we talk about leadership. Usually one or two kids take on leadership roles organizing everybody else. We discuss things like: What motivated them to act? Who told them to act? How did they decide? Where did the ideas come from? How did they know what to do? As they answer, kids begin to understand that they have these very same traits
inside of them. The kids and I talk about what leadership looks like. So many kids have no idea what leadership skills entail. We also talk about participation--also a role. Once kids have some idea about the two roles, it is a matter of choosing.

As the class progresses, I see some kids incorporating the new pattern into their choice-making, and other kids continue to behave as they always have--it's their conditioning. Given chances to practice helps, but we don't get nearly enough time together. A day or a week is not enough time to counteract what they hear and feel daily.

I think the biggest gift you can give a child is knowing how to make choices. Sometimes leadership comes from knowing that you can be a leader... if you choose to.

I would like to add that I often involve them in a few simple exercises before we get to this part. I start by telling them they can do anything. Their brains are constantly taking in information all the time and
processing it faster than they are even aware of. I have them cross their legs, fold their arms, and clasp their hands and be aware of what finger/leg/arm is on top. Normally it depends on if you're left handed or right handed that dominates, but occasionally I have had some that are not textbook. I tell them the reason that hand/arm is on top because that is what they are accustomed to. Then, I have them place the non dominant hand/arm on top and they complain it feels wrong! We condition ourselves to think/act in certain ways... venturing outside of those norms feels uncomfortable. We practice off and on over a period of time with the non-dominant side leading. and then we launch into ordering according to birth dates without talking. It is new behavior that is learned. Leaders learn to be leaders by performing new behaviors they are not used to.

                         REFERENCES: Click on the link for folktales, true stories, videos and other lists for citizenship


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