While perusing the children’s section one of those massive chain book stores, I stumbled upon picture books featuring Wangari Maathai. (A side note: I check the children’s section of book stores regularly, even when on vacation, to gather ideas for books to order for my school’s library.) When I saw the picture books, I thought: “WOW! What gems! I simply must have these for our school’s library!”
Wangari Maathai’s story is amazing. In 2004, she was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her Green Belt Movement in her home country of Kenya.
There are four books I recommend for elementary school students: Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa, Mama Miti: Wangair Maathai and the Trees of Kenya, Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai, and Seeds of Change: Wangari’s Gift to the World. The simple text and beautiful illustrations in each book will appeal even to the youngest students.
Last year I read the books during Black History Month to my classes, kindergarten- 5th grade. Then I tweaked the lesson depending on the grade level—you can keep it simple, or make it as complicated as you like. If you dig around on the internet, you can find videos and pictures of Wangari Maathai, her movement, and the trees she and her group have planted. Youtube has a clip of her receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, which I showed to all my classes.
But Wangari Maathai and the books about her life and movement are not just for Black History Month. Indeed, these books can be used as springboards to other topics. With books about Wangari Maathai, you can develop lessons about: geography (focusing on Africa) and mapping skills, character education and the Nobel Peace Prize, women’s rights, sustainability and the Green Belt Movement, the life cycle of trees, and how important trees are because of all the wonderful things trees do for us and give us.
Follow the link below so you can look inside some of the mentioned books.
Anja Tigges, Ed.S.
Scott Elementary School (Atlanta Public Schools)
1752 Hollywood Road
Atlanta, GA 30318