Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa
by Jeanette Winter
SUMMARY: Wangari's Trees of Peace is an account of the work of Kenyan environmental/political activist Wangari Maathai. Wangari grew up in the midst of vast beauty and greenery in Kenya. After returning home to Kenya from studies abroad, she expects to be welcomed by the familiarity of abundant trees and beautiful landscapes. She instead finds her home left bare as a result of deforestation. Wangari is devastated about what has become of her homeland and therefore decides to take action. She starts by planting trees in her backyard and getting others involved in the cause. This passionate woman and her efforts would soon become the Green Belt Movement, resulting in bringing back the beauty of nature to Kenya. Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work in the reforestation of Kenya.
USE: This book is a wonderful tool to discuss how one person can create big and meaningful change. Wangari recognized a problem in her community and was driven to do something to change it. Through her hard work and motivation she was able to make a difference in her world and the lives for those around her. Her story is an inspiring one, one that I think children will really enjoy. I might use this book in a larger unit study on the importance of taking care of our environment. This book would be great for introducing words like deforestation, etc. I can also use this book in a larger unit study of personal accounts of individuals that have created/are currently creating change. The culminating activity can result in the students finding an issue that they would like to address and change within their community and/or the world at large. I feel like exposure to these stories would be such great motivation in executing this activity. Incorporating some sort of arts activity would also be fun in conjunction with reading this book and others within this unit. Perhaps making a collage, painting, or acting out the story. Such artistic representation would help the students become more familiar with the stories as well as help make their messages more real.
STAGES OF SJE:
3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Wangari is persecuted and thrown in jail because her efforts were not in line with those of government officials. This book also touches upon sexism as her persecutors condemn her for her "unwomanly-like" actions.
4. Social Movements and Social Change: Wangari struggled to create change as she was beaten and thrown in jail for her passionate determination.
5. Taking Social Action: Wangari started the Green Belt Movement which resulted in the reforestation of Kenya and the planting of over 40 million trees.
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