Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Backyard!

My new CD is out!  It’s the birth of a new collection of songs celebrating this whole wide beautiful world that is our backyard!  After all, each corner of this spectacular planet is someone’s backyard!
It’s been over 20 years since I began this journey of weaving songs into a narrative about the natural world - a no brainer really that I would do such a thing, since I am passionate abut both music and I grew up in Sherwood Forest with the Major Oak as my cradle! (The Major Oak is an ancient tree which is hollow inside – as a child I would crawl inside and spend many an afternoon daydreaming there!)

Music and nature enhance human lives, and I hope this new collection of songs will bring delight and joy to all those who listen, as well as encourage a renewed exploration of backyards everywhere!
Nature is filled with the sounds of music; from the cacophony of the dawn chorus to the rustling of leaves, (different in each tree) and our ears can be trained to become finely tuned to the myriad of musical notes present in each moment if we so choose. I have been somewhat remiss in keeping this Blog current, due in large part to the work load created by the new television show, Curious Kids! that I began producing last September.  I will, however, be making a concerted effort to write more frequently in the future, so please stay tuned!  

My new Website is finally ready so please come and visit!  I welcome your comments or feedback on it!  You can listen to some of the songs from the new CD on the website and there is a free song to download along with a coloring page!

You can find a Lesson Plan for Verse One of the song Butterflies Kissing by clicking on the word "butterfly" in the adjacent Label Cloud!  Enjoy these summer days and playing outdoors with your children!  I am a new Grandmother and I am excited to watch my grandson grow; I look forward to introducing him to the wonders of nature.
Be well!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Teaching Children the Value of Nature

Perhaps it’s time we taught children the real value of nature. 

It’s wonderful that we are teaching them to care for it, to protect and preserve it, to try to “save” it etc. etc., but unless we, and they, fundamentally comprehend its intrinsic value, I fear we will not act fast enough to prevent the complete breakdown of biodiversity that is actually happening at this very moment. 

Thankfully nature has an indomitable way of resurrecting itself when we just leave it alone; however if we continue on this present trajectory it may take millions of years for that to happen and we, like some pesky mite, will simply be sloughed off along the way.

How do we understand this value?  How can we teach it to the youngest members of our society so that they might grow up fiercely determined to acknowledge its importance and relevance in monetary terms?  I will attempt here to offer some ideas that you might find useful in your classrooms and home-school lessons.

Lesson Plans

1.  The value of a watershed
Everyone lives in a watershed, and every watershed impacts the ocean.  Even if you live far inland, the lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers all flow through the countryside to the sea.  Therefore, the health of that watershed has far reaching implications not only for wildlife but for humans too.  Find out which watershed you live in and invite your students to learn how that watershed impacts the economic wellbeing of the various communities therein.  For example, here in Florida, saltwater fishing in the Charlotte Harbor region generates nearly $37milllon,  annual revenue from angler expenditures.  Pollutants from human habitation can severely affect the health of the marine ecosystems subsequently impacting the fish and the industry that is reliant upon it. 

2.  Bats
Bats provide a valuable service to famers because they feed on many of the pests that destroy crops.  Without bats, farmers would have to spend large sums of money on pesticides to curtail such destruction.  Fruit-eating bats spread seeds across large swaths of forest ensuring the survival of fruit bearing trees.  Ask students to find out which pests bats eat, and what fruits might be impacted if bats were not able to distribute the seeds.

3.  Bees
Bees pollinate a variety of plants that provide us with essential foods; invite students to research these foods and then look at their commercial value.  Bees are currently declining around the globe; what would be the economic impact if there were no bees?  Ways Kids Can Help Protect Bees

4.  Earthworms
Without earthworms, there would be no soil and therefore no plants, no food. We don’t often see posters celebrating the value of worms!   Create a poster illustrating the role of earthworms in the food chain.  Write a song, a poem, an ode to the earthworm!  Importance of Earthworms

5.  Trees
Trees provide a multitude of services; paper, wood for building, shade for crops, they provide us with food and they also clean the air and act as carbon sinks.  Ask students to list some of the econimical benefits of trees.   A Tree's importance and Environmental Benefit

Bats, bats, bats!   Is one that comes to mind!  The Coral Reef is another - coral reefs are essential nursery grounds for so many species of fish.

Have fun!  Thanks for stopping by!  Let me know if I can help you in any way with your lesson plans!
In gratitude to this Earth for life!

Other Resources:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Stealing from our Children

I was honored to hear Chief Oren Lyons speak today at the NAAEE conference in Buffalo, New York.  
Not only did he remind us all that we are running out of time, but he reiterated this Native American Proverb:

 “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

Those words rattled around my head as I wandered back to my hotel after presenting my own session at the conference.  I’d heard the quotation before, but somehow today, hearing it spoken by Chief Lyons, brought tears to my eyes. 

I thought we loved our children?  We do everything we can to nurture and protect them don’t we?  We have child protection agencies, child care this and child care that.  And yet the stark reality is that we are NOT protecting them from a future that is likely to be pretty grim; one that we ourselves probably won’t have to endure.  We are neglecting all the children of the earth right now and into the next generations because we are refusing to act boldly and decisively in this moment, when it is so crucial that we do so.

I admit, on the one hand it all makes me feel weary, this continual apathy on the part of so many global leaders and the constant bickering about climate change by certain insidious media types and political news grabbers. 

But then, in my session, there were these enthusiastic young educators, singing along, doing the actions, excited about ecology programs they’re creating with their kids and suddenly my energy’s back!  My determination to, at the very least, take each moment of this life that I have been gifted, to find ways to inspire kids to love and honor this planet by continuing to create resources and programs that can contribute to the growing abundance of work out there.  

I didn't begin this Blog  to rant, there's plenty of exasperation out there, so forgive me this slight deviation.  However, as Chief Lyons pointed out, "Nature's laws are not negotiable...and Cap and Trade is the temple of doom."  How can we rob our children and the next generations of a healthy, abundant planet, I mean really, how can we?  

Earth Hero Activity
Invite kids to seek out someone who is their Earth Hero; someone who has inspired them with their work to protect the planet, a particular species or habitat.  Rachel Carson, John Muir, Wangari Maathai, Sylvia Earle and Jane Goodall are just a few.

Story: The story of Chipko
SongDolphin Teach Us To Play Celebrate being alive!
Here are some interesting Blogs I came across lately - No Student Left Indoors
I'm A Teacher Get Me Outside

Thanks for reading, for caring, for doing all that you do to raise awareness and the quality of life for all beings; each one of us can make a difference, so lets act together now to really make change happen.
In gratitude for this life, nourished unselfishly by this precious, fragile planet.
Photo by Georgia Emery

Monday, September 6, 2010

Communion and Connection!

I read something this week that sparked my imagination and got me reflecting on the way in which today’s proliferation of social media, screen time, and constant connecting affects our deeper ability for communion and connection, with each other, and with the larger community of life.

The article, by David Spangler, alluded to him asking his daughter why she didn’t just call her friends instead of constantly texting them.  She replies sweetly,
“If we called each other, we’d have to have something to talk about!”
David responds, “But aren’t you talking to each other when you’re texting?”
“Oh, no”, she replied. “we’re not talking, we’re connecting.”  

The article continues with Spangler exploring the difference between communication for the purpose of conveying information and communication intended to create communion and to build connection.  You can read the full article at David's Desk.

In the face of such formidable and alluring competitors as the Internet, the cellphone and the video game, (not to mention the TV!), how can we re-ignite in children a sense of communion and connection to nature?  Basically, it’s going to take a lot of work, commitment and determination on the part of parents, teachers and grandparents!  Something that was once just a natural part of life (kids playing outdoors), has morphed into a scheduled activity!  The good news is that there are some wonderful resources to help you back onto the path of re-discovering the outdoors with your children!

Here are some Blogs and websites that I've found along the way that you might find helpful!

Teacher, Juliet Robertson’s Blog “I’m A Teacher, Get Me Outside here!” has some wonderful ideas!
Beth Almeras is The Grass Stained Guru and she shares lots of fun tips for immersing kids in nature!
The  Children & Nature Network  provides plenty of information as well as reminders of why it's so important for us to reconnect our children back to nature.
Out Bound Family provides fun ideas for family activities - a useful resource
Eartheasy – provides solutions for sustainable living has some very useful links to environmental websites for kids.

Songs! Well, of course it being my blog, I am bound to recommend a song or two to sing as you meander down the garden path! I Saw Butterflies Kissing Today, is a favorite, and it names lots of critters you can look out for along the way!
Stories! A short break on your hike provides the perfect moment for a story!  Here’s an easy one to learn that reminds us that each of us carries within the beauty of the universe: The Stars Inside

I am not able to write as many posts as before since I am working full time on producing a new half-hour Curious Kids TV Show for WGCU Public Media (  There is a wealth of useful information and links in the archives of this Blog; I urge you to take a look.  I will be releasing my new CD and launching a companion website very soon, so stay tuned and thanks, as always for taking the time to read and share this Blog.

Have fun communing and connecting with/to this beautiful Earth!
In gratitude for life.
Photo by Chip Hoffman

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Setting Our Intentions!

I heard something this week that I just loved; it was someone describing how their mother arose each day before dawn just so that she could send out her intention for the day.  As if by witnessing the dawn, and sending out one’s prayers, one could partake in influencing the unfolding of that day in a positive way. 

Sages have long practiced such early morning meditation for exactly this reason; sending out their intentions and prayers to heal and inspire all beings.  

With kids heading back to school, I wanted to share this idea with teachers so that perhaps this semester they could gather their students together and collectively set their intentions to protect and preserve this very battered planet and help build a more peaceful, just, kind and harmonious world in which we can all live. 

So here are a few ideas of how it could be a fun and joyful experience!

Morning Circle:  People have gathered in circles since the dawn of time; sitting in a circle allows us to see each person’s face, to listen to our fellow compatriots on this journey and get to know them a little better.  Share a song, or a poem that will set the tone for the day.  Invite each child to share one thing that they might do that day to help protect the earth; or some action they could take to bring kindness to another person, or an animal.  Create a Talking Stick and use it each time you gather in circle.

Pledge to Act!  Margaret Meade’s famous quote “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” is empowering.  Each one of us can make a change in our daily lives that helps to reduce our footprint on this earth, brings peace to others and builds a foundation of trust and harmony; all it takes is our decision to do so.  Make it a daily, or weekly event, to make a pledge with the children.

The Little Earth Charter;  this program for children provides a fun springboard from which to create activities that focus on protecting the earth and being socially responsible.

Songs:  Friends of the Earth is a great song to learn – it is a wonderful song to incoporate sign language.  I have had numerous student bodies sing this song to me and sign it as they are singing.  You can hear it at  Little Animation For Kids Just go to the Music Section.  Dolphin Teach Us To Play is another one that illustrates the joy and harmony of life.

Photo by Tessa Emery

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Campfire Fun!

There is something about a campfire that awakens memories of ancient times in us; we are drawn to stare into the golden flames, to reflect and imagine – at least that has been my experience from many campfire moments with adults and kids.

Storytelling comes alive as the flames flicker, and legends take on a whole new dimension, as well they should since many have been passed along on just such nights as this with everyone gathered in the glow!

I’ve shared some of my favorite stories and songs below, but here are a few fun ideas for campfire games too.  10 Campfire Games You Have to Play!  With younger kids the alphabet travel game is always fun.: you just go through the alphabet, each person choosing a different letter; start with a name, then a place and then something that comes from there.  So – my name is Alice and I come from Alabama and I am bringing apples, and so forth.

I find that just sharing personal stories can be a very moving and profound experience with children and adults.  We all have a story to tell and most good stories are the ones that recount the tale of an event in someone’s life.  Stories are as old as time and many cultures and indigenous peoples history is recorded only through their oral traditions.  Here is an interesting article  on storytelling.

Songs can add to the atmosphere, especially if everyone can join in and sing along.  Some of my favorite tunes to share with kids around a fire are the Mosquito song, Bats, bats, bats, and Slip Slitheree Dee.  I make up actions for my songs and that adds more fun for the kids – you can easily make up your own actions, or better still get the kids to!  You can fine all these songs on my MySpace page. 
Stories One of my favorite campfire stories is the Iroquois story of the Big Dipper.  Twice I have told this story and a shooting star has fallen at exactly the right moment! Amazing!  The legend of the Milky Way  is another good one.

I am back in Florida now, working on a brand new half-hour kids TV show for WGCU Public Media  We are in the midst of auditions, looking for children who will be our Curious Kids TV Hosts!  Due to this new workload my blogs will not be as frequent, but I will be posting from time to time and there is a wealth of information already written if you look through the archives.  Hope everyone is having a good summer (or winter, depending on where you are!).  Feel free to get in touch with me if you want a specific song back up on MySpace!  I will be launching a new website in the fall along with my new CD!

Stay tuned! In gratitude for life and this precious earth that sustains us all!
Photo of Campfire Eric Dufresne

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Traveling Back to Florida

If you're reading this, you will know that I am on the road again!  Traveling back to Florida, from Montreal!  I am beginning a fabulous new project, one which I have dreamed of doing my whole life!  I will be producing a Children's half-hour TV Show for WGCU Public Media (PBS) in Fort Myers, so lots of work, but an amazing opportunity to share knowledge, inspire kids to get outside and discover the marvels of the natural world, promote wellness and demonstrate our interconnectedness to the Earth and each other!

I will be resuming my Blog Posts in a few weeks, so please come back and visit!  In the meantime, if you scroll through the archives, you will find a wealth of information and ideas as well as links to some great stories and resources!

I hope your summer is going well and that we will connect again soon!
In gratitude for life and this precious Earth,