Gratitude and appreciation are essential elements in raising children to be naturalists and environmental stewards. We take care of what we love. Throughout the school year I have made an effort to integrate environmental literature and learning wherever I could across the curriculum. We participated in #writeout with the National Writing Project in October, doing wonder walks and exploring acorns. We made posters and wrote 6 words for the environment, advocating for the Earth. We learned about Ansel Adams and dandelions and made wishes that we hope will disperse like seeds–resilient and gritty–growing where they land, like dandelions themselves, making the Earth a better place. Last week we read Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayre, a beautiful book that combines photographs and descriptive language to express appreciation for all that nature has to offer. This became the inspiration for our own letters of gratitude to the Earth in the form of zines.
We made zines earlier in the school year, so it seems like perfect timing to come back full circle especially since students have made so much progress as writers and readers. To push their composition and zine making skills, this time we created a plan before launching into the zine itself. Students planned their front and back covers and the six interior pages before creating the actual zine. They were encouraged to stretch their ideas, adding detail and description for each page.
What I love the most is that students had so many ideas about what they are grateful for in nature. They love trees and clouds and rainbows. Animals (both cute and feisty according to one student), the ocean, and flowers were prevalent topics. Pollinators and water, and of course, constellations also were featured. In each of their zines, I can see traces of my teaching…about writing and art and the environment. Here’s a student reading her zine.
I am hopeful that these young students will grow up to be advocates for our planet, for healthy environments for everyone, for sustainable practices and clean energy. Finding spaces for students to learn about the challenges we face on our planet, about the importance of conservation, and about ways to stand up and voice both their appreciation and their concerns for the future are important and easily combined with the reading, writing, science, and art that are already the typical parts of school curriculum when you plan carefully.
Students’ notes of gratitude to the Earth will be on display for Open House next week, spreading their appreciation and awe of the natural world to their families and others who peek into our classroom. How might you construct and spread your message of gratitude to the Earth? I am looking forward to hearing your ideas.