Mother Earth Connections (3rd)
The purpose of this lesson is for students to explore the concept of the earth. They will explore our connection to the earth and the importance of good stewardship of it through the Native American traditional beliefs about “Mother Earth.”
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 Handout One: Venn Diagram
- Student copies of Handout Two: Brother Eagle, Sister Sky
- Watercolor paints, brushes and white paper
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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 Handout 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).
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.
Discuss in what ways stewardship and environmentalism are examples of philanthropy.
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.
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 Handout Two. Model this for the whole class by reading page one of the text and filling in the following references for each topic:
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 Hummingbird – sacred or holy
Ask each group to read its list as the teacher or a class recorder writes “nature nouns” under each of the five categories on a display copy. These words will be used in the next lesson.
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.
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 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. Allow time for the paintings to dry. After the paintings have dried tell the students to draw pencil outlines from nature. These are not intended to be complete “pictures”. The drawing might include the outline of fish, leaves, trees, flowers, animals, etc. Trace the pencil lines with fine-tip markers.
Teacher observation of student participation and understanding during the Venn diagram discussion. Group completion of Handout Two, demonstrating the ability to recognize parts of nature and the meaning to Native Americans.
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.
Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
Benchmark E.1 Give examples of philanthropic traditions of diverse cultures.
Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.
Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
Benchmark E.5 Recognize the wise use of resources as <i>stewardship</i>.
Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
Benchmark E.4 Describe an early example of philanthropy practiced in the indigenous culture.
Benchmark E.7 Give examples of how indigenous traditions and immigrant traditions shaped philanthropy in the nation.
Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
Benchmark E.3 Define stewardship and give examples.