Earth Day happened to follow the weekend just after a teaching week this April, so I took it as an opportunity to further explore the topic of stewardship of my student’s natural and cultural communities. I set up a lesson that involved having students generate their own stories, a read-aloud of the book “Brother Eagle Sister Sky,” and a water-colored post-card written to themselves for Earth Day. I had my students participate in the act of story-telling with a silly “Yes And..” improvisational game, and then debriefed with a discussion on stories and the message or moral story that they often tell.
After reading the book Brother Eagle, Sister Sky, a story about Chief Seattle’s message to congress about the “worth” of the environment through a indigenous perspective, I invited the students to close their eyes and picture a place that you want to protect and share for future generations. My main objective in doing so, was to have the students connect the concept of stewardship to their own special place that they care about. During this reflective activity I had the students write a post-card to their future selves about what they could personally do to protect their special place and then on the other side use watercolor and sharpies to paint a picture of the place.
Here is a picture of a student reflecting on his favorite beach in the Phillipines.
Stewardship can be a very nebulous topic if students aren’t able to make the connections to how stewardship can look in their own lives. This was one of my most memorable lessons on stewardship all year — primarily because I incorporated why stories are so important before the actual reading of a story. Having students play around with story-telling at the beginning, and then discussing the role that stories have in sending a message, prepared my students for the powerful metaphors that Chief Seattle made in Brother Eagle, Sister Sky. What resulted was a series of lovely watercolor paintings — some depicting neighborhoods, a beach in the Phillipines, and some images of the land and water that should be kept healthy. I will continue to consider how to build on the idea of stewardship where students have the opportunity to reflect and plan ways in which they can protect places that are near and dear to them.