My favorite Earth Day book: Wangari’s Trees of Peace

Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in Biography, Early Learning, Holiday, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Key Ideas and Details, Logic Smart, Nature Smart, Non-Fiction, Range of Reading | 0 comments

2010-wangari-trees-of-peace-africaSometimes I fear that I can’t make a real difference in helping the planet, but Wangari’s Trees of Peace: a true story from Africa by Jeanette Winter shows how powerful one person’s actions can be. Wangari Maathai was devastated to see how barren Kenya was after thousands of trees were cleared. Soil was eroding and crops wouldn’t grow. The birds were gone. Women walked for miles to gather firewood. “I can begin to replace some of the lost trees here in my own backyard – one tree at a time.”

Wangari started with nine seedlings, which grew into a nursery. Wangari gave new seedlings to village women for them to plant, and gave them money to keep those trees thriving. When Wangari tried to stop the clearing of old trees, she was beaten and arrested. But her message of caring for the Earth was taking root just like her trees were, and because of her, Kenyan women planted over 30 million trees, saving their land and making life there better.

For Earth Day/Arbor Day/natural resources units/biography units/non-fiction read-alouds that you can finish in one sitting, this is my new go-to book. Just by reading it and discussing it with students, you’re hitting the Common Core Standard of Range of Reading (a biography that teaches science and social studies? Non-fiction score!) Wangari’s Trees of Peace is also excellent for an ecological cause-and-effect lesson, one of the big pieces of Key Ideas and Details. Using the book for reference, students can write and draw the effects of deforestation (crops wouldn’t grow, birds were gone, lack of firewood) and the effects of planting all those trees (women don’t have to walk so far to gather firewood, more birds, crops growing in the soil.) Winter’s picture book doesn’t delve deeply into the science of why a lack of trees leads to soil erosion, so you can share Planting the Trees of Kenya: the story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola if you need to build that knowledge with your students. Use both books as resources for student writing and drawing, and now you’re Integrating Knowledge and Ideas!

If in the past you’ve received more apple-themed coffee mugs than you need as end-of-the-year teacher gifts, you can suggest that in lieu of a present for you, students can give a gift to us all by planting a tree. If you can spring for a seedling or if your parent-teacher organization will chip in, plant a tree with your students and let them help take responsibility for watering it (seeds are cool, but watering a visible seedling is way more exciting than watering a patch of dirt.) Wangari’s Trees of Peace may plant in your students a dedication to care for our planet.


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