Sunday, April 17, 2016

NPM Celebrations - National Environmental Education Week

April 17-23 is National Environmental Education Week, a time when we encourage and celebrate environmental learning. The Environmental Protect Agency describes environmental education this way: "Environmental education does not advocate a particular viewpoint or course of action. Rather, environmental education teaches individuals how to weigh various sides of an issue through critical thinking and it enhances their own problem-solving and decision-making skills." To do this, we must ensure that we raise kids with an awareness and sensitivity to the environment and the environmental challenges that exist.

Poetry is a great resource for making kids aware of the beauty of their natural world. I could share hundreds of poems on this, as nature is fodder for poets, so choosing is hard. Here are a few favorites.

The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination, with poems selected by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston, is a stunning collection of nature poetry and information. The book includes a CD where many of the selected poets read their own works. Footnotes accompany many of the poems. These include explications of both the content and form of the poem. There is also a glossary of scientific and poetic terms, as well as a brief biography of the included poets. This is one of my favorite science poetry collections.

The World
by Mary Oliver

I would like to write a poem about the world that has in it
   nothing fancy.
But it seems impossible.
Whatever the subject, the morning sun
   glimmers it.
The tulip feels the heat and flaps its petals open
   and becomes a star.
The ants bore into the peony bud and there is a dark
   pinprick well of sweetness.
As for the stones on the beach, forget it.
Each one could be set in gold.
So I tried with my eyes shut, but of course the birds
   were singing.
And the aspen trees were shaking the sweetest music
   out of their leaves.
And that was followed by, guess what, a momentous and
   beautiful silence
   as comes to all of us, in little earfuls, if we’re not too
   hurried to hear it.
As for spiders, how the dew hangs in their webs
   even if they say nothing, or seem to say nothing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe they sing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe the stars sing too,
   and the ants, and the peonies, and the warm stones,
   so happy to be where they are, on the beach, instead of being
   locked up in gold.

Poem © Mary Oliver. All rights reserved.

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Mark Herald, is a collection of poems that move through the year from spring to winter. Each seasonal section contains more than 12 poems and includes a mix of reflections and suggestions for how children can enjoy the world around them. A nice blend of science and poetry, the verses are easy to read and offer plenty of information.


In the treetops, in the bushes,
there are new songs and colors.
The little birds are back!

The've flown so far!
Over forests, mountains, deserts, seas—
such a long, long way to get back to us.

Yet here they are,
bright and alive, fluttering, singing,
ready for spring.

Poem © Nicola Davies. All rights reserved.

The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound: A Birder's Journal, written and illustrated by Sallie Wolf and designed by Micah Bornstein, is a beautiful nature journal that includes poetry, sketches, watercolors and more. The scrapbook look and feel of this book has been created using by Wolf's actual sketches and drawings that have been manipulated in PhotoShop.  The Author's Note in the beginning describes how a teacher ignited Wolf's love and passion for bird-watching.

Organized by season, the pages contain a wealth of information about bird watching, bird identification, and behavior.  Here's the journal entry and poem that give the book its title.

March 26 - I saw a cardinal & a robin perched in the same young maple, both singing.

The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound

The robin makes a laughing sound.
It makes me stop and look around
to see just what the robin sees—
fresh new leaves on twigs of trees,
a strong high branch on which to rest,
a safe, dry ledge to hold its nest.
The robin makes a laughing sound.
I stop. I always look around.

Poem ©Sallie Wolf. All rights reserved.

The Green Mother Goose: Saving the World One Rhyme at a Time, written by Jan Peck and David Davis and illustrated by Carin Berger, presents 30 well-known nursery rhymes and children's songs, rewritten as parodies with an eco-friendly twist. Collectively these poems promote both healthy living and conservation activities. The rhymes deliver positive messages in an inventive and catchy way, though some readers may find a few of the poems didactic. The illustrations support the notion of going green in that they are composed of recycled materials, scraps of paper, and other ephemera. The book opens with this poem.

Green Mother Goose

Together we’ll do it—
We’ll help save the Earth,
Our emerald home,
The place of our birth.
Come now, rhyme with me,
Let’s turn our hearts loose,
And fly ‘round the world
With Green Mother Goose.

The rhymes cover a range of topics, including solar energy, reusable shopping bags, carpooling, organic gardening, replacing incandescent lightbulbs, and much more. Here's one more example.

Sister Moon and Brother Sun

Sister Moon and Brother Sun,
Bless our world when day is done.
Four gentle prayers for Mother Earth,
Four angels round her head:
One for sun and one for rain
And two to heal the Earth again.

Poems ©Jan Peck and David Davis. All rights reserved.

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry: More than 200 Poems With Photographs That Float, Zoom, and Bloom! (2015), edited by J. Patrick Lewis, is  a collection of classic and contemporary poems that celebrate the variety of life and landscapes on Earth. This is also one of my favorite collection of poems celebrating nature and science.

from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
by George Gordon, Lord Byron

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more.

(You can read the canto this excerpt came from at  Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: Canto the Fourth. Scroll down to CLXXVIII.)
I'll close today with two favorites from Emily Dickinson. These can be found in Emily Dickinson, Complete Poems (1924).

from Part Two: Nature

The grass so little has to do,—
  A sphere of simple green,
With only butterflies to brood,
And bees to entertain,

And stir all day to pretty tunes      
The breezes fetch along,
And hold the sunshine in its lap
And bow to everything;

And thread the dews all night, like pearls,
And make itself so fine,—      
A duchess were too common
For such a noticing.

And even when it dies, to pass
In odors so divine,
As lowly spices gone to sleep,      
Or amulets of pine.

And then to dwell in sovereign barns,
And dream the days away,—
The grass so little has to do,
I wish I were a hay!

from Part Five: The Single Hound

Nature is what we see,
  The Hill, the Afternoon—
Squirrel, Eclipse, the Bumble-bee,
Nay—Nature is Heaven.

Nature is what we hear,      
The Bobolink, the Sea—
Thunder, the Cricket—
Nay,—Nature is Harmony.

Nature is what we know
But have no art to say,      
So impotent our wisdom is
To Her simplicity.

That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our next celebration.

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