Sunday, April 22, 2018

Taking Care of the Earth

guest post by Madelyn Rosenberg

Both Earth Day and National Poetry Month fall during April, so it’s a good time to introduce you to Take Care, a rhyming book about taking care of the earth and each other.

I wrote Take Care after watching a series of gut-wrenching events unfold in the news. This particular series of events culminated in the nightclub shooting in Orlando. How can we keep doing this to each other? I thought – and have thought, again, many times since. I have similar thoughts when I see people abusing the planet – when someone throws a cigarette butt out a car window or when they find a whale on a beach in Spain with his stomachfull of plastic.

I react with rage. And sadness. And I try to reassure myself that we can learn to take care of each other and the planet and make things better. Poetry, whether we’re writing it or reading it, can be burn or balm. My book is meant to be a balm, though it’s fueled by burn. It begins:

Take care of the world, of the mountains and trees
Tend to the world, all the bumbles and bees
Color the world, with greens and with blues
Heal up the world with the words that you choose

Following are a few related prompts:

Emotion poems
What makes you angry? What makes you sad? What makes you happy and what makes you heal? All poems convey emotion, and for this writing prompt, we’re going to come at it full throttle. The lesson I try to always teach my kids when it comes to writing is that specifics are important. So urge your class, when they’re writing about a particular emotion, to think really hard about the things that make them feel the way they do. Does their emotion have a color? A temperature? A season? Is it tied to a specific event, like a fight with a friend or the loss of a stuffed animal? (Was anyone else riveted by the search for the rabbit lost on the London Underground?) There are no real rules for this one, but for students who thrive with rules, you can tell them the poem has to be the same number of lines as letters in the type of emotion they’re feeling – or a multiple of that if it’s a short one. Challenge: Can you convey the emotion without mentioning it by name?

A letter to the world
Have the class write a letter to the planet. Maybe it’s an apology note. Maybe it’s a thank you note for a dandelion or a dimpled strawberry or the color green. Again, it’s always great when you can get kids to focus on something specific. Want to get them in the right mood? ? Consider a nature walk around the school for inspiration. Prose or poetry for this one, your pick.

A take-care tree
A tree branch (a fallen one, please =)
A hole punch
String or yarn
“Leaves” cut from recycled paper. It’s fine if there is printing on one side, as long as the other side is blank. Multiple colors help.
A flower pot
Rocks or newspapers

Place the branch in the flowerpot and use rocks or wadded up newspapers to hold it in place. Have students write their ideas for taking care of the world on the paper leaves. Punch a hole in each leaf and attach it to your branch with the string. Use as a reminder and a classroom decoration for Earth Day, Arbor Day, Tu B’shevat or spring. 

ADAPT IT: If your students do the letters-to-the-world prompt, excerpts on tree leaves also make a nice classroom display.  

BIO: As a journalist, Madelyn Rosenberg spent many years writing about colorful, real-life characters. Now she makes up characters of her own. The author of award-winning books for young people, she lives with her family in Arlington, Va. For more information, visit her web site at or follow her on twitter at @madrosenberg. And if you try this exercise in your classroom, she’d love to see the results!

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