Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Wangari's Trees of Peace

Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa
Author & Illustrator : Jeanette Winter
Ages: K+
Purchase this book here
Find out more about Jeanette here
Lesson plan ideas here
Other resources here

SUMMARY: Wangari's Trees of Peace is a wonderful true story of a woman who grows up in a lush land full of forest birds and yummy crops. Wangari loves Kenya but leaves for college in America, only to come back home to find all of her village trees and plants destroyed. Instead of finding the Kenya she once knew, she finds women hunched over traveling too far for wood. She finds that plants and trees are cut down to make room for new buildings and industrial workers. She wonders where are the birds? Where are the trees? Wangari is very sad that people did not think to replant trees when they cut them down.  As Wangari thinks about her once beautiful land,  she decides to take action and starts planting seedings. She spreads the word and teaches the other women to plant more and more seedlings along with her! Wangari tells the women they are "planting seeds of hope". During her journey to save Kenya's green earthy environment, she meets resistance along the way from government men. These men try to prevent her from making progress by throwing her in jail when she tries to protect trees from their sharp axes. But Wangari does not lose hope. She knows harming the environment is wrong and she she stands up for what she believed in and keeps planting and replenishing the earth. Kenya's great beauty soon returns, crops grow back and animals live and thrive. Wangari's story and triumph was one heard around the world. This story emphasizes taking action, standing up for your beliefs, environmental preservation, teamwork and messages of hope.

ELEMENT 5: Talking social action/ Raising awareness
This story reflects the theme of raising awareness and taking action because Wangari notices a major problem in her village and knows in her heat what the government men are doing is wrong. No one is helping the green earth stay green and prosperous, instead they are cutting it to pieces. Wangari decides to take a stand against the men cutting down the trees. She takes action and spreads the word of replanting and replenishing the Kenya she once knew with seedlings. This book raises environmental awareness of how important our earth and trees are to our communities. Wangari shows all readers big and small that one person CAN make a change with a little help from her friends, some hope and perseverance.

A wide range of activities can be done depending on the age group.
-Students can think of a problem they find in their community or environment. Then students can brainstorm in groups on a plan of action to solve the problem.
-Students can plant trees on their school property or around their community to preserve the earth and keep it healthy.
-Students can learn about plants and how their survival is linked to the survival of others (via photosynthesis)
- Students can research important people who made their voice heard and stood up for their beliefs just like Wangari. Projects can be shown as a poster or power point presentation.
- Students can compare and contrast two books with similar messages. Students will write about their similarities and differences but that the message is still the same.

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