Developing a connection to nature and a sense of environmental stewardship in our students exists as a goal at every grade level, from nursery through 8th grade at the Waldorf School of Princeton. These values are put into action as our students experience their natural surroundings during daily outdoor play, working the earth in Gardening classes, hiking the extensive trails and exploring the creek on our 20+ acre campus, and engaging in studies of Natural Science, as exemplified in the current 4th/5th grade Botany unit, where teachers creatively build on that sense of connection to nature and integrate the content across several areas of the curriculum for deep, high-interest learning.
Before studying the more nitty-gritty details of plant life and growth cycles, parts of plants, form and function, and classifications of different plants, Mr. Heberlein, our 4th/5th Grade class teacher, recently asked the students in his class, “Imagine if plants are the Earth’s dreams. Why does it matter how we take care of them? What do you think we could do to give the Earth ‘good dreams?’” Below are some examples of our 4th/5th graders’ written responses:
“Plants are the earth’s dreams. We have to take care of them. If we don't take care of them the Earth would become a desert just as Jane Goodall said. If people cut down too many trees the air would get polluted and we would get mudslides and natural disasters. Also if people build too many cities and parking lots soon the plants would get extinct.To prevent all of this….we must save the plants. This could be done by planting gardens. And by cutting down less trees, and growing orchards, and building less cities and parking lots. Also we must stop littering. And then the Earth would have better dreams!”
“We need to take care of the plants because they give us food, shelter, wood, oxygen and joy. We need to stop being mindless and stop polluting, cutting down trees and forests. We need to be more responsible in how we use plants and adopt more sustainable practices. We can help by planting more trees and starting a compost pile. This is how we can be more responsible citizens of our planet.”
“Taking care of plants matters because they help us breathe by providing oxygen into the air. Plants make the earth beautiful and colorful. They also provide food in the form of vegetables and fruits. If we did not take care of our earth’s dreams, the world would be bare and dull.
We can help the earth and plants by teaching people about how important the plants and the earth are to us. Another way we can help is by planting more gardens and trees. By helping the environment and cleaning up the neighborhood we live in, you can make good dreams for the earth.”
We now pose the same questions to you, and invite you to share your thoughts in the comment section below.