Monday, January 4, 2010

16 Weeks to Earth Day! Week One: LIFE!

Happy New Year to everyone! 

I decided that the focus my Blog for the next 16 weeks will be on ideas that might help teachers create Lesson Plans to celebrate the Earth with their students, for each week running up to Earth Day.  The first week of this Series begins today, January 4th, 2010, and will culminate on April 19th, the week of Earth Day!  I hope that it can provide some useful and inspiring ideas!  Each Blog will have a Green Acton of the week as well as songs and stories.

I will be incorporating the principles of the The Little Earth Charter, (which I co-created with JC Little), into each post.  The Little Earth Charter is a fun and effective resource that provides a foundation, or springboard, for education on sustainability; it will tie this Series together nicely.  The DVD of the Little Earth Charter is available for purchase on the website and the educational outlines for each principle (in eight languages) are also posted there. 

Life!  There is so much to do everyday and our lives are full and busy, so in the hustle and bustle of it all we can sometimes forget that life is a precious gift sustained by the Earth!  When the first astronauts looked back at our tiny blue planet they were in awe; and still now, when we see those images of the Earth from space it is a breathtaking reminder of the fragility and uniqueness of this special place. 

This is our home and it‘s an incredible one!  Lets show every child what an amazing place this is and foster in them the kind of Earth Stewardship that lasts a lifetime!   Perhaps in a few hundred years humans will look back and call this the time of the Great Turning .

I am going to begin this series with the smallest of creatures.   I think it’s kind of ironic that the large animals tend to become the poster critters for the environment, when in fact it is the tiny, and the microscopic organisms that form the foundation upon which all life is built.  We don’t often see posters asking us to save worms, ants, bacteria or fungi and yet the truth is that without them, dead organic matter would pile up high on the earth’s surface and there wouldn’t be much of anything to eat.

Lesson Plans:
1.  Watch the Little Earth Charter Principle: One is Life!
The Principle of Life, means respecting and caring for all living things, no matter how big or how small.  All life is important, not just human life, so let’s treat all living things with respect and consideration.  Invite kids to take the Pledge for Life.
2.  Microorganisms rule the world!  This Activity from NASA demonstrates how millions of microorganisms live in a handful of soil, and how these tiny species eat organic matter such as grass clippings, fallen plant leaves etc. and in doing so reduce dead organic matter on Earth’s surface and release nutrients from the decomposing matter for living plants to use.  
3. Food Energy Webs! Demonstrate how we are all dependent on the sun, the soil, the air and water by creating food webs.  Make a list of everyday food items such as apples, cheese, bread and eggs; invite the children to draw food energy webs for them so they see the connections clearly.
4.  Seeds: From a tiny seed can spring a mighty tall tree!  Most plants come from seeds and seeds come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.  Some are small, like radishes or large like sunflowers.  Seeds remain dormant until they receive the magic ingredients of water, soil and light!   Sprout some peas; buy some whole green peas (not split peas); rinse them and soak overnight in a wide mouthed jar. Rinse and drain the peas, return to the jar keep in a cool location away from sunlight, rinsing every 8 to 12 hours for 2-3 days until the sprouts reach the length you want. Then eat them!
5.  Wiggly Worms: bring some worms into class and let the kids observe them. Ask questions - do they have eyes? How do we know which is their head or tail? How do they move?  Why don’t they suffocate under the soil? (Worms are usually available at a Fishing store)  A good way for children to understand how worms break down matter is by having a Vermicomposter in your classroom.  Not only will you be able to compost your class food scraps, but also you will have lots of nutritious soil for your plants!   Here is a Video on making a Worm Farm .
6.  Earth Day Journal: Help the children to create Journals in which to record all the things they do related to nature and the environment, during the next 16 weeks, and beyond!  These journals can be simple, or more fancy!  Here is a Video on How to Make A Recycled Journal.

Interconnections: Everything that lives on Earth is connected through the air, the water and the soil and nothing can live without the sun.  I have uploaded the song This is Me to MySpace.  The lyrics illustrate how each person is composed of these elements in addition to being an unfolding story of their own.

Songs:  Dolphin Teach us To Play is one of my favorite songs, and it celebrates the joy of being alive! I have also included the Ant Song, to celebrate one of the tiniest creatures. You can listen to it them on MySpace.
Stories:  I have chosen two stories: Apple-Seed John and The Ant and the Dove

Wherever you are, if you can take kids outdoors to play each day and introduce them to the wildlife in your neighborhood, that is the greatest gift to them.  Obviously it depends where you are located, what the temperature is and so many other factors, but here are a couple of websites that might be helpful:

Green Action!  Focus on water: Conserving water is something we can all do! By saving water we help to do all the following: 8 Tips on Conserving Water ! So this week’s Green Action is to make an effort to use less water.   At the end of the week ask children to list all the ways in which they saved water.

Have fun celebrating Life!
In gratitude to the Earth.

The Picture for Life created by JC Little:
Photo of Earth fron NASA

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