The Boy Who Grew a Forest

The story of Jadav Payeng, India, who started with a thicket of bamboo to stabilize an island that was being eroded away and over his lifetime has grown to a 1300-acre forest. It’s about the difference a single person can make.

Sophia Gholz, Sleeping Bear Press, ©2019, ISBN 978-1-5341-1024-3

Tree Proverbs
In every culture, around the world, there seem to be proverbs and sayings involving trees. Give each group four proverbs and ask them to discuss and prepare a written explanation of their meanings. Each group should have a unique set and then reports to the whole class the meaning of one of their sayings. Some examples are:

  • A little axe can cut down a big tree. (Jamaica)
  • The one who plants the tree is not the one who will enjoy its shade. (China)
  • Big trees cast more shadow than fruit. (German)
  • The taller the tree the harder the fall. (Dutch)
  • Do not cut down the tree that gives you shade. (Arab)
  • Useful trees are cut down first (Korea)
  • The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. (Chinese)
  • The tree falls the way it leans. (Bulgaria)
  • The creation of a thousand forests is in one acre. (USA)
  • All birds flock to the fruitful tree (Senegal)

Poetry and Art
A considerable number of poems have been written in tribute to trees, or about walking through trees. Why not add poetry to your tree unit?

  1. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (Robert Frost)
  2. Trees (Joyce Kilmer)
  3. Birches (Robert Frost)
  4. The Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now (A.E. Housman)
  5. The Way Through the Woods (first stanza) (Rudyard Kipling)

Emily Carr was one of BC’s first “environmentalists”, showing in her art both the beauty of the forest, and the destruction wrought by forestry. There is a large collection of Emily Carr at Vancouver Art Gallery. Give your students a large sheet of watercolour paper (or regular paper if watercolour is too expensive) and a limited period of time (15 minutes?) To create an “interpretation” of an Emily Carr painting. This one is usually called Lone Pine.

True and Yet Not True?
First, show the students the images in the book and ask them to talk about how old Jadav is, how much life his 40 acres can support, whether he was ever employed, and how he makes a living. Second, give the students articles about the real story that this book is based on. Get students to discuss:

  • Is it OK that the story isn’t exactly precisely true, even though he is the actual person who did create a forest on his own and has certainly dedicated his life to doing it for no money?
  • Why would the author take liberties with the story?
  • Would the story be just as interesting and just as inspiring for young people if it were “factual”? What parts make it inspiring?

For more creative writing ideas, click The Boy Who Grew a Forest to download.

The Boy Who Drew Birds

boywhodrewbirdsJames Audubon was French, and was sent to America to learn business, and also to avoid French military service in Napoleon’s army. While there, he became passionate about the observation and detailed paintings of birds. This is his story with particular emphasis on his “test” of migration.

Jacqueline Davies, Houghton Mifflin, ©2004, ISBN 0-618-24343-7

Audubon Art

First, students need to watch a YouTube on drawing birds. The one I liked best, is a little “cartoon-like” but it is fast, and clear and could be adapted to more “realistic drawings.

Next, provide a set of Audubon style drawings for students to “observe”. Ask them to draw just one of the birds. They should sketch in pencil, and then go over it when adding details, using ink. Finally they would erase the original pencil, and finish with coloured crayons or felts.

Tell them not to worry because when the original inspiration is taken away, their drawing will look really good. (A lot of students think that “real drawing” needs to be done from your head. No. All great artists had models, observed from nature; or now they start with a photo.)

If students draw on a piece of paper around 3 X 5 inches, it can be turned into a very nice card for Mother or Father’s Day.

Famous Naturalists Vimeo

Click The Great Naturalists to watch a video for the University of Idaho about some of the most famous naturalists.

Famous Naturalists – Rapid Research

List of Famous NaturalistsNaturalists study nature the way it is rather than the way theories say it is. As a result, going back to Aristotle, there has been steady progress in science because of the work of naturalists. The attached pages describe 17 naturalists and their contributions to the study of the real world. This can be a great Rapid Research project to build general knowledge about history (useful as well in building vocabulary), speaking and writing skills, and, of course, research skills.

Working in pairs, students must find 20 facts about their naturalists and present a list of 20 complete sentences describing what they have found. There are then several options:

  • Students each write their own essay describing what they have found out, which is marked, then mounted on cardstock and illustrated from the Internet for a very effective classroom display of student work.
  • Finished essays can be submitted with a literal question and an answer from the book. Once the finished essay is mounted, the question is added and the answer form part of a key on your desk. The cardstock items are numbered in 72 point numbers, and then students circulate to find 5 answers from the pages. They may go in pairs, but only one pair may be at a station at a time in this Scavenger Hunt.
  • The illustrations for the naturalists can be quickly placed by you into a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation and students, again in pairs, have each 1 minute (2 minutes in total) to present their information. This is the one most likely to increase general knowledge in students.

For 7 creative writing ideas, click The Boy Who Drew Birds to download.

School For Bandits

School_For_Bandits_PB_CoverRalph Raccoon is too polite and too nice. His parents have to send him to Bandit School to learn to be a proper bad raccoon. How does Ralph use his “niceness” to succeed?

Hannah Shaw, Alfred A. Knopf, ©2011, 978-0-375-96768-9

Synonym Study

There are many synonyms for people who take things that don’t belong to them. Students might find: pirate, thief, robber, buccaneer, brigand, cheat, crook, con artist, rustler, looter, pilfereer, shoplifter, gangster, highwayman, raider, racketeer, etc. This could also be a good brainstorming activity to build vocabulary.

Once they have a list, ask them to define each one in such a way that people could read the list of definitions and know what each word was being referred to.

School-For-Bandits-bad-listThe Being Bad Alphabet

Ralph Raccoon hasn’t been bad enough so he has to brainstorm 26 words (one for each letter of the alphabet) that are ways of being bad. A could be for aggravating, B for bragging, C for cursing, and so on. X and Z are notoriously hard—encourage students to use two words if necessary to get them in. Examples: eXtra Noisy or Zealously irritating.

This can be an individual activity or a brainstorming activity to build vocabulary.

For 6 creative writing ideas, click School For Bandits to download.