Sunday, May 13, 2012

Earth Day

You thought I was done writing about what I did at Tree Elementary? HAHAHA! I still have one more unit to write about! Well, this one was just a mini-unit. Earth Day fell right in the middle of our egg unit, so I did a short, one day unit on it. We learned about the importance of recycling and taking care of our Earth. 

I read the book Earthsong, by Sally Rogers. The book is actually an illustrated version of Sally Rogers' song, "Over In The Endangered Meadow", which in turn is based on the old song "Over In The Meadow." (If you've ever had or worked with young children, you may be familiar with Raffi's version.) The book has adorable pictures of mother and baby endangered animals. Before reading, we talked about the fact that, when we make our Earth dirty and use up its resources, we take away homes and food that animals need. I reminded them of what happened to the dinosaurs, and asked them, "You know how we'll never see a real dinosaur? What would the world be like if we could never see a real tiger, or a real penguin, or a real parrot, again?" We then read the story. 

As a special treat, I had bought the mp3 of the song "Over In the Endangered Meadow" on Amazon for 99 cents.  I brought in my iPod and speakers. After I read the story once, I turned on the song, and turned the pages as the song lyrics went along. I soon discovered that the song isn't exactly like the book. The book has more animals, and I think the song has one or two animals not seen in the book. If you are going to do this activity with your students, it would be a good idea to listen to the song first, and mark the pages that are mentioned, so you can flip to them without having to search around and skip pages. I didn't think to do that, but luckily my kids didn't notice. They love music and rhymes, and they asked me to play it two more times before we had to leave for lunch! 

For unit, we talked again about why it is bad to let our Earth get dirty, and to use up all its resources. I explained to them that when we throw things away, they go into a landfill, which keeps using up more and more space on Earth, and which also puts nasty things into the air and soil. I told them that they can help save the earth by either recycling the things they use, or finding new uses for old things. For instance, if you needed a pencil holder, would it be better to buy a new one, or find something old that can be used as one? I had brought in a giant garbage bag of, well, garbage. (Such as toilet paper tubes, oatmeal containers, cereal boxes, soda bottles, etc.)  I also had colored tissue paper, masking tape, string, stickers, and other random materials. I asked the students to be creative and make something new out of these old things. I provided them with a few books about making crafts out of used items, but reminded them that these were just ideas. We wouldn't have all of the exact items used to make the items in the books, but they could use the things in the books as starting points.

The day we did it, Martin, Kite and Triller were absent, so there were really only five kids doing it. Of those five, Rosella had a really hard time with it... she kept on taking more and more items but wanted to sneak them into her backpack and take them home. She has a slight hoarding issue! (The other day she came to school with the Yellow Pages book in her backpack. Another day she showed up with a whole bunch of dirty clothes belonging to various people in her family. Yet another day, she came with her mother's cellphone. Since they don't have a land line, we had no way of calling her mother to let her know we had her phone... because we had her phone!) Jay had an awesome idea to create a solar system out of container lids, but he kept daydreaming about outer space and didn't manage to finish. Starling didn't want to do it at all, but finally agreed to make a picture frame out of a meat tray. But two people, Towhee and Oriole, got really into it! They didn't want to stop. They even ended up taking home a few extra pieces. (Although I didn't let Rosella take any garbage home, I let Towhee and Oriole take things home because they actually had ideas on what they would make, whereas Rosella would have just tossed them into her bedroom!) 

Take a look! 

Rosella did make this pencil holder.

The beginning of Jay's solar system. (An adult cut out the sun shape for him!)

Starling's picture frame. (She's supposed to paste a photo in the middle when she gets home!)

Towhee's truck. He even used cellophane tape to make a realistic windshield! 

Oriole's pickup truck. Its kind of hard to see because his hand is covering some of it, but you can tell he worked hard on it! 

I absolutely love activities that allow kids to be creative and use other parts of their brain. Towhee has ADHD and a learning disorder, Oriole has an intellectual impairment, and both are far below grade level in reading and math. But, given an activity that didn't involve any reading, writing, or written math problems, look at what they did! They worked so hard and put so much thought and effort into their projects. I think they did as good as, or even better than, some of the students in the school's gifted program would have done! This type of project gives kids like Towhee and Oriole a chance to shine. 
I think, next time I do this, I might allow a whole week to work on things. This time the kids managed to crank these things out in the half hour before gym class. If they had half an hour or more each day, for a week, imagine what they could come up with! 

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