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.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Wangari's Trees of Peace

by Jeanette Winter
Illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler
Grade: 3-4

In this true story we first meet Wangari as a young girl growing up in Kenya, where she is surrounded by lush green trees and rich lands. Wangari leaves to study in America but once her studies are over she returns to Kenya to find a drastic change: the trees are nearly all gone to make room for buildings and the once rich soil was no more. In fear that all the trees will be destroyed she decides to take matters into her own hands and start planting seedlings in her backyard. Wangari's few trees grow into a nursery. Realizing the need for even more trees, Wangari enlists the village women to start planting trees and thus plants "seeds of hope". Despite facing great opposition from the government and being jailed for bringing life back to the lands of Kenya, Wangari, with the help of other village women brought back the "umbrella of green" in Kenya.

Element # 5:
This books captures the essence of Element 5 because it is a story about a woman's efforts to raise awareness about the growing deforestation in her community/country. Wangari saw the changes that were a result of deforestation and by first taking her own initiative and then informing the women of her community she began a movement toward saving and rebuilding the land. This book provides students with inspiration to become advocates for the environment as well as the empowerment of women, as Wangari had so boldly done. Wangari began with her few seedlings and motivated change with the "seeds of hope".

A simple activity after reading this book would be to first ask students what we could do to beautify our classroom, school or even the community. Introduce the importance of conserving trees to contribute to a healthy ecosystem and the significance of trees as a natural resource. From this students will be informed of the many ways they can participate in this environmental cause. For example, students can walk through the school to ensure that there are recycle bins available throughout the school and perform a skit or formulate a speech/pledge (in relation to their environmental awareness) that they can perform at a school assembly to expand and raise awareness.

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