Illustrator: Sonia Lynn Sadler
Grade Level: 3-5
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PBS Wangari Maathai Ideas for the Classroom
Video- Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai
Summary: Seeds of Change is the harrowing life story of Wangari Maathai, the founder of the Green Belt Movement, and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The story follows Wangari through her time as a young Kikuyu girl, who defies gender roles in her small farming village and attends school. From a young age Wangari’s family instilled in her the importance of nature and caring for the land they lived on. Wangari eventually broke even more barriers for African woman when she studied Biology in the United States. While pursuing her academic career in the US she was inspired to return the Kenya to help other woman to pursue their academic dreams as she did. Upon returning to Kenya she saw that the lush landscape that she loved had been destroyed by companies who cut down trees for lumber. Working with Kenyan woman she began to plant seedlings of the trees that gave her village life. As word spread, more and more woman began planting trees. The landscape began to look like green belts, giving the group their name, The Green Belt Movement. When news of Wangari spread, wealthy business men became angry with Wangari for her interference with their work and the government did not like the advancement being made by women. She was arrested and thrown in jail. Friends of Wangari from Kenya and other countries came to her rescue and freed her. She knew that she must travel the world to discuss injustice against woman and the importance of preserving the Kenyan landscape. Her work in the world community and in Africa awarded her a place in the Kenyan Parliament as well as the most prestigious peace prize in the world, the Nobel Peace Prize.
Element 3- Exploring issues of Social Injustice: The story of Wangari and her Seeds of Change represent Element 3, by not only exposing students to some aspect of the Kiyuku Kenyan culture, but it also introduces theme of sexism. It may be hard for our elementary aged students to understand a culture in which girls do not normally attend school, rarely attend college, and especially do not study science, but this story introduces the theme subtly, leaving the opportunity for expansion.
Activity: This book can be used to foster a silent dialogue discussion within small groups. After the class is read the book out loud, students will divide into groups of 3. Prompted by the question “How do you think the lives of Kenyan women may have changed after Wangari’s Green Belt Movement?” the first student will write their response silently. Next, the following student reads the first students response and writes their own. This continues in silence until all students in the group has responded and the first student is able to read all responses. They then have a come together as a group and speak about the common themes and ideas they had amongst themselves.