Through Small and Simple Means
You know, great things are possible! This was the message that my grade-level partner and I shared with our 55 fourth graders this morning. It wasn’t our original intent, though. Our original intent was to teach them how to look for, find, and interpret implicit details in a text. We got started with this, and we will continue to do so until we feel our kids are comfortable with the concept, but, in the meantime, we seemed to have found ourselves passionately advocating for youth empowerment.
The awesome thing is that we didn’t even plan to do it, or talk about it. It just… happened.
It all started when we decided to do a lesson on implicit details and, since we are teaching English/Language Arts concepts through Dr. Seuss, we decided to use The Lorax as our text. This had more to do with the fact that I have a plush Lorax than anything else.
As I read the story to the class, we would stop and discuss the hidden details that would help us to know the main idea of the story. We started with the point that the Once-ler seemed to be mysterious and cranky. Then we talked about the dangers of cutting down trees, polluting the air, and ruining fresh water. This got us to think about how small acts, while seemingly harmless, can lead to a chain reaction of events that can easily cause great harm to our world. After all, the Once-ler didn’t start by cutting down all the Truffula Trees. No, first he just chopped down one.
But then I asked the students why the Once-ler gave the boy in the story the last Truffula Tree seed. Someone pointed out that the one seed could turn into a tree, and that tree would produce more seeds, so they could grow more trees. And then came the money question: What was Dr. Seuss really trying to tell us when he wrote The Lorax? Was he trying to warn us about cutting down Truffula Trees in order to knit Thneeds, or was it something else?
Then answers from our young charges was awesome. They talked about small things making the world a better place, not just harming. I told them about the work I do with Operation Snowball, Inc. and the idea of empowering young people to change the world through small actions. We had them do a quick write about what they can do to make a difference. Sure, most of them wrote about planting trees and not polluting, and others wrote about recycling, but we planted a seed of an idea. Nobody has to wait until he or she is a “grown up” to change the world. They can do it right now, right here.
I definitely want to find a way to build on this. It would be awesome for our students to come up with their own Community Action Plan and see them make a difference!