"Mother Earth" - Past
  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.1 Give examples of philanthropic traditions of diverse cultures.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.
    2. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.5 Recognize the wise use of resources as <i>stewardship</i>.
    3. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark E.4 Describe an early example of philanthropy practiced in the indigenous culture.
      2. Benchmark E.7 Give examples of how indigenous traditions and immigrant traditions shaped philanthropy in the nation.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Define stewardship and give examples.

The purpose of this lesson is for students to explore the concept of the planet earth and our connection to it in the Native American traditional beliefs of “Mother Earth.”

PrintOne Sixty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • describe and illustrate the Native American traditional beliefs of “Mother Earth.”
  • interpret the words of Chief Seattle.
  • define vocabulary of environmentalism and apply to the past and present.
  • cite examples of personal virtue and good character from the past and present.
  • recognize the interconnectedness of earth and life.
  • Copies (5) of the book Brother Eagle, Sister Sky: The Words of Chief Seattle (see Bibliographical References )
  • Audio recording of Native-American music (see Bibliographical References )
  • Projected copy of Attachment One: Venn Diagram
  • Student copies of Attachment Two: Brother Eagle, Sister Sky
  • Watercolor paints, brushes and white paper
Home Connection: 

None for this lesson.

  • Audio CD: Various Artists. Tribal Waters: Music from Native Americans . 1998. Earthbeat. ASIN: B00000C41M
  • Seattle, Chief . Brother Eagle, Sister Sky: A Message from Chief Seattle. Dial Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 0803709692
  1. Anticipatory Set: Play Native American music (see Bibliographical References ). Ask the students if they can identify from what people or culture the music comes. Tell them that the world has many diverse cultures. We can learn from studying diverse traditions and comparing them to our own experiences. Today they will start learning about the Native-American concept of the earth and responsibility to the environment.

  2. Show the book Brother Eagle, Sister Sky (see Bibliographical References ). Tell the children the background information contained in the flyleaf of the book. Read the book aloud, asking students to comment on how the illustrations contribute to understanding the text. Discuss how Chief Seattle demonstrated good character and personal virtue and compare that to positive and negative examples of that today.

  3. After finishing the book, ask the class to compare the role of a mother to the role of the earth by completing a Venn diagram together (see Attachment One). Ask students to brainstorm what might go into each circle. For example, in the mother circle, write “a person;” in the earth circle, write “a planet;” in the intersection, write “nurture with food” (or shelter, water, comfort, beauty or companionship).

  4. Introduce the vocabulary of environmentalism:

  5. philanthropy - giving time, talent and treasure or taking action for the common good stewardship - taking care of a valued resource environment - our surroundings environmentalist - one who takes care of the natural environment common good - resources shared for the collective benefit of the whole group of people

  6. Discuss in what ways stewardship and environmentalism are examples of philanthropy

  7. Discuss how the vocabulary words apply to the concepts presented by Chief Seattle long ago. Have them think in terms of how Chief Seattle (and the people he represented) would define the words and how he would apply the concepts in his daily life. Chief Seattle's understanding that the earth and all life (including humans) are interconnected is strongly linked to the vocabulary of environmentalism.

  8. Divide the class into five groups. Assign each group one of the following topics related to the earth: water, air, land, plants and animals. Give each group a copy of Brother Eagle, Sister Sky . Ask one person in the group to read the book aloud slowly. The group listens for references to their topic and records what is said about it using Attachment Two. Model this for the whole class by reading page one of the text and filling in the following references for each topic:

  9. Air: Sky and wind – can't be bought

    Water: Rain – can't be bought

    Land: Sandy shore, meadow – sacred or holy

    Plants: Pine needle – sacred or holy

    Animals: Humming bird – sacred or holy

  10. Ask each group to read its list as the teacher or a class recorder writes “ nature nouns” under each of the five categories on chart paper. These words will be used in the next lesson.

  11. Distribute white paper, watercolor paints, brushes and cups of water. Explain that they are going to begin to make a picture similar (not as detailed) to the illustrations in Brother Eagle, Sister Sky.

  12. The students will be creating a work of art with a watercolor “wash” and fine black-line drawing. Today they will be creating the color wash and tomorrow drawing the black lines. They should choose the appropriate colors for their wash based on the subject. (If they are going to do primarily trees and woods they might want to use mostly green and brown. If they want to portray water and meadow they might use primarily blue and green.) Show the students how to use the paintbrush to dampen their entire paper with clear water (caution against “puddles”). Use a very little bit of watercolor paint on the brush to create a “wash” of color(s) on the paper. Caution the students not to allow the paints to overlap or mix too much, but to keep separate areas of color until the paper is covered with light color. Set the painting aside to dry until Lesson Two : “Mother Earth” – Present.


Teacher observation of student participation and understanding during the Venn diagram discussion. Group completion of Attachment Two, demonstrating the ability to recognize parts of nature and the meaning to Native Americans