Tag Archives: elementary school

The Garden Shed Behind School

Background information: My brother is currently a sophomore in high school in Alameda, CA. He can still recall folklore he heard as an elementary school student at the school we grew up going to.

Brother: Behind our elementary school, there was a shed like right on the grass after the playground. It’s like a gardening shed, but I remember hearing a lot of different things about what people thought might be in there. Kids made up a lot of things – um, some said there might be a monster or some kind of evil creature, and other people said there was like a killer guy living in the shed, and that’s why you could sometimes see chainsaws in there. I don’t think there were actual chainsaws, it was more like leaf-blowers and gardening tools. I remember hearing different things from lots of different kids though, in all the different grades too.

Me: Did you ever go near the shed?

Brother: Yeah, I looked in one time and thought I saw like…a glowing red light? Like, I thought for a second that it might be an eye but it was probably just something reflecting or something like that. And other than that I just saw gardening stuff. I don’t really know what’s in there.

Hearing my brother talk about this garden shed was somewhat shocking, as I was surprised at how well I remembered what kids would tell me about the shed, and how eerie it seemed to me when I was a child. Folklore like this, one that is so widespread and widely talked about within your own community, can become so salient that, even years later, I could recall how scary the garden shed seemed to me and my friends – so much so that children rarely ever went near it.

Mafia – School Yard Game

Informant: The informant is my sibling, a Mexican American boy who is 14 years old and currently an 8th grader at a charter school in Los Angeles California. 

Context: The following transcript is a conversation of his explanation of his version of “Mafia” – a schoolyard game that he has been playing for as long as he can remember. Usually, this game is played in large groups of students either inside of a classroom or outside in a schoolyard to pass by time/to enjoy oneself. 

Transcript: 

Me: Hey, so what game did you play again? 
J: Mafia! 
Me: When did you play this game? 
J: I played it one day when we couldn’t go to the park for P.E (physical education). 
Me: And….How exactly do you play that game? 
J: I don’t exactly remember, but I do remember that it was really fun. Okay, so what we had to do was that there were different roles in the game. There was the narrator, who had the most power in the game and made the decision of how the game would play out. 
Me: Wait, so you’re telling me this person chooses the other roles as well? 
J: Yeah! Okay, so our teacher Mr. Y would tell us to sit down, with our heads down and our thumbs up. As we were like that, he would tell us closely to listen up and start with the roles with the following line: “Okay! I will be starting with our mafia student, as the mafia, you are out there looking to steal money from the people and eliminate them. If you feel that I tap your shoulder, then that means that you are mafia.” Again, this would also be similar with the sheriffs, but you know instead of sheriffs getting up anything they would just have to guess who the mafia was and “arrest them.” (informant air quotes as he says this). The last two roles are one doctor and one civilian. The doctor saves civilians, but they also run the risk of saving someone who is from the mafia because they don’t know their identity. Civilians have it easy because they don’t need to stand up. They just sit there and enjoy themselves either to get killed or be saved. 
Me: Wait, so how of each number was there
J: Uhm well it all depended on the size of this class and really it all depends on who the narrator is. 
Me: Did you win! Where are you mafia, sheriff, doctor, citizen? 
J: NOOO!! I lost!!! I was the first one to get eliminated (hysterically laughs) Overall, even if I lost, I really enjoyed the game. 

Analysis: 

I think is an interesting game to play at such a young age. One would think that this type of game would not be allowed because it involved violence and death. However, it’s interesting to see how violence, and what used to be censors is not so present in our lives because it is seen as means of entertainment. I think the game’s fostering of mistrust among players is what is so particularly appealing to students from all ages (even our little ones) because there is huge degree of uncertainty and suspense to who you can trust and vice versa. In addition, because this game is so competitive it allows for kids to be unashamedly competitive and sneaky against your own friends. Overall, it teaches students the lesson of loyalty, survival and sucess.

The Ormondale Pony

Background: The informant likes this piece because it reminded her of the kinds of stories she’d used to hear in elementary school. Belief in the pony was shared by her classmates although it didn’t affect them in their daily lives, often forgetting about it.

SD: So this is the story about a horse, Ormondale, who is allegedly buried under my elementary school gym or something. Uh yeah, so I was always told this story as a child. This school, our elementary school was split up, we had, uh, K-3rd, and then there was a 4th-8th, so this was at the first one, this was at the K-3rd school, uh, it was called Ormondale and it was named after a horse, or I think maybe a pony, I don’t really know the distinction personally, but yeah, and I guess it was a race horse, I don’t know how the school ended up named after the horse, I mean, uh, oh it was a pony! Yes! Our mascot was the Ormondale ponies. Um, I don’t know how the, I think, I don’t know, maybe the person who founded the school, it was their horse or something, but, legend says that uh, well the pony is supposedly buried underneath, uh, the school gym, and I don’t ever believe that I was ever told that it haunts the school, I think that it was more of a, a freaky thing that there’s a corpse underneath the gymnasium rather than like a, like a ghostly, like a friendly ghost. I think it’s more corpse related than an afterlife. But, I think, I think it’s a nice story. I never believed it, but I think there are a lot of children, now adults, still children if this story’s still being told today, which I would assume it is, uh, that would believe this story.

Me: Did you first hear the story when you were in elementary school?

SD: I did. I think I first heard this story, uh, maybe in first grade. We, we didn’t talk about it often–actually I think we talked about it for like a month when we first learned the story, and then it was kind of a big deal, and then everyone forgot about it. I mean, I forgot about it for like the past decade. It maybe came into my brain once or twice after I was six years old, uh, but, other than that, I don’t know. I mean, the weird thing about it is that it’s entirely plausible, but why would anyone do it?

Me: Are there behavior changes that come with being around the gym, like does anybody avoid it or try not to–?

SD: No I think, I mean, well, because you’re that young, I feel like things just go in one ear out the other. Sometimes you’ll think about it and sometimes you’re like yeah it’s gym time, let’s do the Pacer. So I don’t think that there are any behavior changes whether or not they are related to the supposed haunting, and/or corpse body of the pony. I honestly kind of believe it though. It’s not impossible. It’s not haunted, it’s not a ghost thing. Because that I wouldn’t believe.

Context: This piece was collected during an in person conversation.

Thoughts: This seems like a belief that may be somewhat of a legend, since it could be true. The informant was quick to say she didn’t believe in it, but later went back and qualified her response; that since the belief that the pony haunts isn’t as common as simply the existence of a corpse, she says she believes it. As with many beliefs shared in elementary school, looking back, it is easy to quickly say you don’t believe it and dismiss it as childish.

Tie-day Friday

Main Piece:

What was this event?

“I did not participate in it, but Tie-day-Friday was… did the school do it? No, it just started by people wearing ties on Friday. It was in elementary school, I have no idea who started it. I feel like people just started saying it because it was fun, and then it became a thing”

Context:

 My informant is my twin sister. She is Jewish, attended Los Angeles public school, and is currently a USC sophomore. This information was collected during a family zoom call where we were checking in with each other.

Analysis:

I was an active participant of Tie-day Friday. It was a fun tradition that allowed elementary schoolers to wear something an elementary schooler wouldn’t wear normally. No one knows who started it, but it created a fun inside joke shared by the student body. This inside joke unified us against the administration because they didn’t know that they were supposed to wear ties on Fridays, which was very amusing to the students.  

Chopsticks: The Game

Main Piece:

How do you play?

“Ok, so each player put out their pointer finger on each hand, ok, wait I know this. So… hmmm wait… the goal of the game is to get your partner to have five fingers out on both hands. And then they lose. And the way you play is you stick out your pointer finger on each hand, and you tap one of your partner’s hands, and they have to add a-as many fingers as you currently have out to that hand.”

Do you have any special rules?

“Yes, so let’s say you have three fingers out on one hand and one on the other, and then you want to switch, you can hit your hands and make them two and two. You can transfer as many fingers as you want to your other hand. And even if your hand is out, you can, like, still redistribute fingers to it and bring it back in.”

Context:

The informant is my twin sister. She is Jewish and attended public school her entire life. This information was collected during a family zoom call where we were checking in with each other.

Analysis:

My informant’s account of Chopsticks’ rules was quite difficult to understand, which emphasizes that this game is best taught visually and learned through practice. Chopsticks is an engaging and competitive game that lets children exercise their mental math and strategy skills. It’s complicated enough to warrant fierce competition, but simple enough to master after only playing a few rounds. I even established social groups in elementary school through playing chopsticks and similar games.