The ideology of an eight year old can be inspiring and heart warming. In the form of a poem, it is also honest.
For International Water Day (March 22), my students researched and experimented outdoors to see what they could find out about water. We turned this project into Water Week by creating a bulletin board in the main hall sharing water facts written on large paper raindrops. In preparation for Earth Day (April 22), students looked for signs of spring in and around the school yard. They found helicopter seeds, worm castings, clumps of moss growing in dirt and on bits of tree bark, early dandelion leaves, and trees and shrubs in bud. From the school yard, they also heard and learned to identify birds and their songs; Cardinal (easy to locate from his song and brilliant red plumage), Chickadee, Canada goose, Robin, and Mallard duck (we observed a couple, male and female, as they waddled around the schoolyard one rainy day across from our portable).
Sadly, Earth Day was no celebration at our school. Ironically, it was the day the city decided to cut down all the trees lining the sidewalk along the school fence as all of the trees had become victims of the Emerald Ash Borer. Seven trees were limbed, their branches tossed into the hopper for chipping, and the trunks sawed down to the ground in chunks, right beside our portable. Some of them were 45 years old. The fact that the city and the school board will be replanting 16 new trees in and around the school yard was a bit of a consolation to the students, however, they pined for a tree they named, “Hug Me” which grew outside the school yard gate a few metres from our classroom.
The students were brimming with questions and thoughts about what they had recently learned and witnessed.With April being Poetry Month, what better way to express yourself than in poetry? We had already explored many different forms of poetry, but to consolidate their thoughts without the constraints of a rhyming scheme (a thrill and challenge for some, a cause for deep anxiety for others), the students could share their ideas in a repetition poem that began, “Je veux vivre dans un monde où…” (I want to live in a world where…). This turned out to be a great form for a poem because everyone had something to say and by repeating the phrase, their poems took shape while their thoughts filled the page; I want to live in a world where trees don’t get sick and die; where you can hear bird songs instead of machines; where everyone has clean water to drink; where there are no iPads or iPhones; where people are nice to each other… Some students ended their poems with a rallying call, “Help me make this world!”
Their poems, written in colourful letters and decorated with drawings and images cut from magazines, will be proudly displayed for the school community at our Literacy Café in May. They are not all talk, either, for along with their proclamations for a better world, students have organized a school yard clean up and sprouted seeds for our school garden. Some have asked for help writing letters to the government to ask for protection of the Blue Whales in the St Lawrence Seaway and the Blanding’s Turtle in a wetland that was recently paved over and build up for a convention centre. In an effort to raise awareness, other students in the class have prepared messages for the morning announcements sharing what they have learned about water and about the Earth, and others still want to help out by having a class garage sale to raise money to protect the Great Lakes, “the last great supply of fresh drinking water on Earth” (quote from Waterlife, National Film Board of Canada, 2009). And so the inspiration continues and the stewardship begins.