“Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.” ~Brodi Ashton

My students love superheroes! Why not, they have superhuman powers, they save the day, they give us a sense of security, their goodness always prevails and many other reasons like cool capes, gadgets and secret identities. Although I honor and respect the lessons we can glean from superheroes. I also encourage my students to find these heroic traits in themselves, their community members, in present day society and in historical figures.

As a part of our United States theme, the third graders study historic Americans. The focus is often on the activists, inventors, statesmen, and humanitarians that probably come to mind when your think of historical Americans- Abe Lincoln, Helen Keller, Ben Franklin, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., the list continues. Rarely do teachers consider America’s naturalists. These famous Americans paved the way for organizations such as the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. If not for the words and actions of these folks, we wouldn’t have natural wonders set aside for our recreation and our water and air quality would also be compromised.

When I explored naturalists with my third graders, we learned about Rachel Carson. Rachel Carson was a hero and a steward of the environment. Like the Lorax speaks for the trees, Rachel Carson spoke for the Earth. Her words helped to shape the environmental movement. Rachel Carson viewed nature as an interconnected web. She didn’t just see the tree but she saw the tree, she saw the branches upon which the Robin perched, the leaves upon which the ladybug grazed, the stem upon which the moss latched, the soil the roots are acnchored in, the insects that shelter in the soil,…she saw connections that reach beyond what is seen. Ultimately, she experienced nature from a holistic perspective.

Rachel Carson’s words changed the world and her witness and understanding of the web of life continues to inspire new generations of stewards. Rainbow is proud to inspire stewards of the environment. Nature’s gifts and lessons are woven into our each and everyday- some days subtly and others explicitly. In order to better understand the heroic deeds of Rachel Carson, the kids enjoyed a read aloud with beautiful paintings helping to describe why Rachel Carson fell in love the with places she did. We discussed some of the ideas and concepts in the book. Then talked about they way she saw nature and its web of life.

The kids then stood as I placed a necklace around them. Each necklace represented some strand in the web of life from air to soil to insect to tree to bear to cloud etc… One child then took a ball of twine and while holding on to her end, gave the ball to the child wearing the insect necklace and said “Soil is connected to insects because insects live in the soil.” We continued to build the web of life with each child stating their connection to other children. When the web was complete, I asked the first child to tug a little on the their strand. I told the children that as soon as the tug reached them, they should tug too. Eventually all the children were tugging with glee.

When the activity was complete I asked for any reactions. One child said, “We are all one.” Another child said, “It is like the Earth is balanced on three podiums, if you cut one down then the Earth is no longer balanced.” Still another child said, “The Earth is like a tree, if you cut one branch the tree isn’t as pretty anymore.”

Our future lies in the hands of these children and the paths they choose. I feel strongly that each child will journey down a heroic path.

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