Sunday, January 31, 2010

12 Weeks to Earth Day! Week 5: The Earth!

“The Earth is what we all have in common.” Wendell Berry

I have always loved this Earth.  I come from it; it cradles me, sustains me, perpetually amazes and inspires me!  But I do not see this Earth through rose- colored glasses; I know it can be a dangerous and forbidding place.  And yet I also relish those moments that catch my breath; the shaft of sunlight illuminating the green universe of a leaf; a group of black skimmers gliding across a calm, turquoise ocean at sunset; the Rocky Mountains rising crisp and clear into the bluest of skies.   Earth’s beauty can lift me up, throw me out into a place only poetry can describe. 

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing or right doing there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.  When the Soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.  Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.” Rumi

There is a teaching story out of the Norwest Indian Tradition that I learned of from poet David Whyte.  This would be told to every young person who asked “What do I do if I get lost in the forest?”  Which is really a metaphor for “What do I do when I forget who I am?”

“Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you are not lost.  Wherever you are is called “Here”. And you must treat is as a powerful stranger; must ask permission to know it and be known.  The forest breathes.  Listen.  It answers: ‘I have made this place around you.  If you leave it you may come back again saying, here, no two trees are the same to Raven, no two branches are the same to wren.  If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, you art surely lost.  Stand still.  The forest knows where you are.  You must let it find you.”

What would your children or students do if they were lost in the woods?  Would they be afraid?  Have they ever practiced “noticing” the landscape of a forest, or a place in nature?  Perhaps you could go out into the nearest wooded area and walk through it together noting the different features – what kinds of trees, spaces, clearings.

How do we impart this sense of belonging to young people growing up in this fast, urban, technological age?  I am not really sure, however, any opportunity to take youngsters out into nature should definitely be seized upon!  As I’ve mentioned before, seeking ways in which to cultivate a sense of awe and empathy in children is important since:

“In the end we will conserve only what we love.  We will love only what we understand.  We will understand only what we are taught.” Baba Dioum
Lesson Plans:
1.  The Little Earth Charter Principle No. 5 is The Earth.  Plant seeds of something edible – tomatoes, sunflowers, beans or peas!  Watching seeds grow into something they can eat helps children to connect to the source of that which sustains them!  It can be the seed which grows their Amazement!

2.  How much life could you find in one cubic foot?   To answer this question, photopgrapher David Liittschwager took a green metal frame, a 12 inch cube, to disparate environments – land and water, tropical and temperate.  Look What He Found!  
Show this to your students and, depending on where you live, ask them to create a similar experiment in the nearest natural habitat.  Even if it's a snowy winter wonderland, you can find plenty of LIFE around!

3.  Show your students some Awesome examples of Nature; like this Golden Cloth made from the silk of 1 Million Golden Orb Spiders!  Look at how some Animals  View the World!  Learn how Scientists now believe that Dolphins are the second smartest Animals: Ask them to write about their most Awesome experience of nature; ask young children to draw theirs.  Watch the Video: Wisdom of the Wild.

4.  The Secret Life of Dead Trees .  There is no such thing as a “dead” tree,  since the organic matter is simply being transformed into something else, and used in the meantime as habitat for some species or other!  Look for trees in your neighborhood that are standing dead.  What wildlife can your students observe living there.  Are there any birds, such as hawks, owl or woodpeckers that frequent the snags?

Interconnections:  The Dangers of Plastic Bags Watch this slide presentation with your students.  There are hundreds of islands of rubbish floating in the Pacific Ocean Gyre; made up of plastics and other debris, these horrible masses of junk are a testament to human waste. 

Green Action of the Week:  Challenge students, your children and your family to not use one single plastic bag for at least a week!  Already many stores around the world are charging for plastic grocery bags and San Francisco was the first US City to ban them.

Song: I have uploaded Friends with the Earth for this post.  A friend of mine, film maker Anne-Marie Miles, just recently posted a video she made using this song.  You can see it here on YouTube  
Story One of my favorites:  The Lorax

I Hope this Post is helpful to you.  I wish you a meaningful, joyful week!
In gratitude to the Earth for Life!

Photo of Earth: NASA
Animation by JC Little of


  1. SO much incredible information for kids. Your org is amazing. You must think I sound like a broken record but I really admire what you are doing. I love the tips I pick up for my girls.

  2. Thanks Shane - its meaningful to me to know that the Posts are meaningful to others!