Mother Earth Connections (3rd)

3, 4, 5

The purpose of this lesson is to explore the concept of the earth as a mother. We look at our connection to the earth and the importance of good stewardship of it through the Native American traditional understanding of “Mother Earth.”

Lesson Rating 
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.
  • read aloud copy of the book Brother Eagle, Sister Sky: The Words of Chief Seattle (see Bibliography)
  • Audio recording of Native-American music (see Bibliography)
  • Projected copy of Handout: Venn Diagram
  • Student copies of Handout: Brother Eagle, Sister Sky
  • Watercolor paints, brushes and white paper
Teacher Preparation 

Note: This lesson depends on a picture book that uses text attributed to Chief Seattle. In truth, there is not an accurate version of that famous speech from 1854. The closest version was published in 1887 (33 years after the speech), written by Henry Smith who translated a poetic version from notes he took of the speech. It is believed that Mr. Smith captured the meaning of the speech but not the actual words. (The speech was not in English.) You may wish to raise students’ awareness of legends and let them know that the translation has been altered over the years for different purposes. In addition, Chief Seattle was from the Northwest, not the Plains, as portrayed in the Jeffers illustrations. Although these were not his actual words, the powerful message of our relationship to the earth is still important for us to consider.


Draw an outline of a person. By the head, write or draw what you think of your environmental action. By the heart, draw how you feel. By the hands, write what you did. By the feet, write your next steps.

  • example of Native American Indian music: 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 Bibliography) and discuss any background related to the selected piece. Say the following: The world has many diverse cultures. We can learn from studying diverse traditions and comparing them to our own personal experiences. Today we learn about the Native-American concept of the earth and responsibility to the environment.

  2. Show the book Brother Eagle, Sister Sky (see Bibliography). Talk about 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 attitudes about environmental stewardship today.

  3. Compare the role of a mother to the role of the earth by completing a Venn diagram together (see Handout). A Venn diagram is made up of overlapping circles. Write attributes of mothers in the circle labeled Mother. Write attributes of the earth in the circle labeled Earth. Where the circles intersect, write attributes they share, such as “nurture with food." Discuss the comparisons. 

  4. Introduce the vocabulary of environmentalism:

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

  6. Discuss how the vocabulary words apply to the concepts presented by Chief Seattle long ago. For example, Chief Seattle’s understanding that the earth and all life are interconnected is strongly linked to the vocabulary of environmentalism.

  7. 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 the handout Brother Eagle, Sister Sky.

    While one person reads the book aloud slowly, the group members listen for references to their topic and record those examples in the handout. 

    Discuss the notes and observations of each group. Talk about the interconnectedness of nature and the value of protecting the environment.

  8. Distribute white paper, watercolor paints, brushes and cups of water for painting a nature scene in the style of the book. They begin with a wash (greens and browns for a forest, blues and greens for water) and then use fine black-line drawing to draw outlines of their images. They add detail with markers or more concentrated paint.

Cross Curriculum 

The students will select a service learning project and an advocacy strategy to carry out as a class to reduce pollution and increase awareness of the issue in the community.

Philanthropy Framework

  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.