Cultural Creation Myths

What does a culture’s creation myth tell us about the values and history of that civilization?


Key Staff

Primary instructor

Key Skills

Creative Thinking: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Global Connections: Connecting to History and Culture


Students will explore different cultures' supernatural explanations for human existence in several societies. They will identify the common elements between the stories and use these common elements to write a play according to one of the selections provided by the teacher.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Listen to and discuss in class several different supernatural creation stories.
  • List and categorize basic aspects of the stories, pointing out similarities and differences.
  • Select two of the stories discussed in class and write a 300-word essay comparing the stories and their basic elements.
  • Collaborate in groups to select two of the stories and write a play according to one of the selections provided by the teacher.

Teaching Approach

Arts Inclusion

Teaching Methods

  • Guided Listening
  • Discussion
  • Reflection

Assessment Type

Performance Assessment


What You'll Need

Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Small Group
  • 1 Computer per Classroom
  • 1 Computer per Learner
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

This lesson can be used to enhance the study of any culture or civilization by an examination of its cultural origin. Comparing and contrasting  creation myths of different cultures will also provide a valuable exercise.

Prior Student Knowledge

  • Some familiarity with mythology
  • Knowledge of a variety of cultures (those covered in history or social studies classes)

Physical Space



Small Group Instruction


Begin with a large group setting but then students will break up into smaller working groups.

Accessibility Notes

Teachers of ELL students should include the creation myths from their students’ cultures.


Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.

Build Knowledge


1. Ask the students to share information what they know about how different societies have explained human existence and other natural phenomena. Read aloud at least three different creation stories from different cultures and discuss them with the students. The following creation stories are some examples you can use:

Build Knowledge

1. Explain to the students that they will research and write a 300-word essay highlighting the similarities and differences between two of the creation myths. Allow class time for research library or Internet research or assign the research for homework. Students should use the Creation Myth Cross-Cultural Comparison handout located within the Resource Carousel to compare and contrast the two stories.

2. Students will use their research to write an expository essay. Use the Essay Assignment located within the Resource Carousel as guidelines for the assignment. The students should consider the following questions when writing their essays:

  • What are some of the most obvious similarities between these stories? The differences?
  • Which of the stories is the oldest? Do you suspect that there is some deliberate overlapping between the stories?
  • Who tells these stories? Is it from a sacred book, oral legend, or religious leaders?
  • Who accepts these stories as true?
  • How did early people explain their origins?
  • What factors might cause one group to develop a supernatural explanation for human existence and natural phenomena different from another group?
  • What categories would help us to sort, compare, and contrast ideas in the creation stories we have read?


1. Divide students into small groups and have each group explore one interactive creation myth on The Big Myth. Students should consider the following questions:

  • How do these stories dramatize the plot?
  • How are the main characters depicted?
  • What creative liberties are taken with setting, conclusion, etc?

Students will use these observations to help them develop their skit.


1. Divide students into small groups and have them use their knowledge on different creation stories to write a skit for their group to perform. For a good resource on techniques and tips for writing plays, see the Playwriting Seminars site. Have the students select a structure for their play from one of the choices in the Creation Myth Skit Assignment handout located within the Resource Carousel:

  • Write a new creation story based on the common elements you have found among the stories. The myth should be from an imaginary religion, culture, or society.
  • Write a play intertwining the three stories, in which characters from the myths interact with one another.
  • Rewrite one of the creation stories, changing some of its most fundamental aspects (i.e., setting, characters, chronology of events, ending, etc.).
  • Structure the play around an idea of your own, in which you demonstrate your knowledge of the similarities and differences of at least two creation myths. (If students choose this option, they must submit a proposal to the teacher for approval prior to working on their production.)

2. Have students perform their skits for the class. After all groups have performed their skits, discuss with students which skits were most effective and why.

3. Have students evaluate the work of their peers using the criteria in the Creation Myth Skit Rubric located within the Resource Carousel.


1. Evaluate students’ plays using the Creation Myth Skit Rubric located within the Resource Carousel. Also ask students to evaluate the work of their peers using the same criteria:

  • Completeness of the script
  • Accuracy and believability of the characters
  • Originality and creativity of the presentation
  • Accuracy of the portrayal of a particular culture or religion
  • Appropriate incorporation of research materials
Extend the Learning

Have students stage the wrestling scene in Act I sc ii. For a prompt, have them look at the illustrations of the wrestling scene on the website Shakespeare Illustrated.

  • Daniel Maclise. The Wrestling Scene from "As You Like It," 1855.
  • Francis Hayman. The Wrestling Scene from "As You Like It," c. 1740-42.


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education

Grade 9-12 Theater Standard 1: Script writing through improvising, writing, and refining scripts based on personal experience and heritage, imagination, literature, and history

Grade 9-12 Theater Standard 2: Acting by developing, communicating, and sustaining characters in improvisations and informal or formal productions

Grade 9-12 Theater Standard 5: Researching by evaluating and synthesizing cultural and historical information to support artistic choices

National Standards in Other Subjects
Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

Language Arts Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes

Language Arts Standard 6: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of literary texts

Language Arts Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts



Daniella Garran
Original Writer

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