April brings Earth Day, which is observed by people in countries all over the world. For the most part, our students have some awareness about the environment, and they quite naturally feel the need to take care of it. No matter what your subject focus is, you can take some time this month to explore what actions we, as individuals, can take towards sustainability.
In Music, I plan to analyze a few environmental songs, and I am hoping that at least some of my classes will have time to share the songs with the rest of the school during break times.
A bit of song analysis works not only in Music, but connects to Language Arts and Social Studies/Social Sciences as well. Younger students may only be able to touch the surface of what a song is about, but even older primary students can dig deeper into the lyrics, making connections to systemic problems, social structures, and world views that might contribute to a problem. This kind of thinking not only creates awareness of the greater complexities with the problem, but can prompt thinking and action for steps toward solutions. With my Grade 5 students, I have gone as far as to ask them to think about why—when so many people know that we need to “save the environment”—does the problem continue? How does a minority view win? The students have been trying to read between the lines and look for references in the song lyrics as well, which has really drawn them in! (So much that we didn’t get any further with the lesson I’d planned!)
In past years, I have asked students to respond to quotes about the environment, through music or just through discussion. I find that quotes are an interesting way to get children thinking about different views, about language, and about social issues. The way we interpret and contextualize them really lends itself to developing critical thinking skills! If you want to try it, have a look at my Earth Day poster and activity set, which has set quotations (related to the environment, but also to social action in general) on beautiful photos. It also offers some transdisciplinary ideas for how you might use the posters or just the quotes to stimulate critical thinking, inquiry and action.
How do you recognize Earth Day in your classes? Is it a big deal at your school?