Spaceship Earth: day 4

Day 4 of my “Spaceship Earth” class at Peace Village Newberg focused on the theme of biodiversity, and of the importance of each part, each job, in ensuring that the whole system works well. (If you missed my earlier posts on this, see Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.)

biodiversity scavenger huntFor day 4, we talked about biodiversity, including the five kingdoms (animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, and protists), and the importance of each in making sure an ecosystem functions properly. We discussed a little bit about the role of human beings within that ecosystem. Then I sent them out on a biodiversity scavenger hunt around the property in small groups with a counselor. It’s a great scavenger hunt (see at left)! We didn’t have a ton of time, but they seemed to enjoy it. They took notes in their field journals about what they found to check off different parts of the scavenger hunt, and reported on them the next day.

After the scavenger hunt, we had a special guest: a bee-tender, Mark Thompson of Fair Wage Coffee. He also has some bee hives in addition to his coffee business, and the honey he collects is amazing! He came and shared with us about bees, how they collect honey, what the importance of bees is in pollinating, and so forth. He brought honey for everyone to taste. He did a great job, and both the younger and older groups really enjoyed getting to hear about bees, his stories of how to collect honey (and of a bear one time), and learning about the importance of pollination. I would have liked to connect it more clearly to the need to not kill all the bees with insecticides, but that was a bit beyond the scope of what these kids could handle and the amount of time we had. But hopefully it’s something that will stick in their minds as important as they get older and start making such decisions themselves.

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Spaceship Earth: day 3

On day 3 of my Spaceship Earth class at Peace Village Newberg last week, we focused on water, soil, and pollution (see also day 1 and day 2). We watched the second part of the Stunning Views – From Earth to Universe and Back Again video. In the first part, it zooms out so that you eventually get a view of the whole “known” (or at least theorized) universe, while in the second part it zooms in so you see cells, DNA, atoms, and all the way down to quarks. So on this day, we focused on tiny things on our own planet and how they help Spaceship Earth function, and what happens when we manipulate those tiny particles to be destructive to our “spaceship” rather than helpful. (Our photographer didn’t make it around to my class on this day, unfortunately, so no fun pictures! But scroll down for more of our compost, recycling, and trash stats.)

For this day, I did a different lesson plan for the 2nd-3rd graders and the 4th-6th graders. For the younger class we focused on the water cycle and the tiny life forms that help decompose organic matter and that form part of the food chain that keeps healthy water and terrestrial ecosystems functioning. In the older class we got a little bit into environmental justice, paying attention to pollution, who suffers most from pollution, and how we contribute to either the healthy or unhealthy functioning of our ecosystems based on what we use and how we dispose of it. If we want our air, water, and soil to cycle well in our spaceship, should we put harmful chemicals into these natural systems? If we were on a spaceship with just a few people would we think it was OK to give some people most of the food and other resources and others very few? No. So on this spaceship, the same principle applies. We recognize that the whole spaceship needs to be running well in order for each of us to be healthiest, and keeping the spaceship running well requires attention to both the large entities and the small ones.

After the “Stunning Views” video, with the younger kids we watched this very catchy video with a Water Cycle Song, talked about the water cycle, read a book called Water Can Be…, and then looked at pond water under a microscope. While they took turns looking at what was in the microscope, the other kids drew what they had seen in the microscope in their field journals and/or colored pages with the water cyclesoil microbes, and water protozoa. They could also choose to look at books on the topics of water and soil. This basically took the whole time, since they had many comments about the water cycle and what we can use water for. The kids really enjoyed this, although I did learn that this age of kids is a little young for using a microscope. The first several kids wanted to immediately touch the microscope, and then I had to adjust the settings again because they moved it away from what I had had ready for them to view. I asked them not to touch and just to look, and they still had a really hard time not touching! I had to adjust the microscope between each kid, but I think it was still a profitable experience for them.

With the older kids, after the “Stunning Views” video we watched the videos “10 Most Polluted Places” and the first several minutes of “CNN: Here’s How Flint’s Water Crisis Happened.” We talked about how pollution messes up the ecosystems of the water, soil, and air by putting heavy metals and other toxins into contact with people and other animals, and killing things farther down the food chain that then disrupts the lives of the mammals and fish we can see more easily. We looked at pond water through the microscope. While other kids looked through the microscope, the other kids did the activities mentioned above: drew the protozoa in their field journals, colored, or read books. This group of kids loved looking through the microscope and drawing what they saw, and they were a better age for the activity.

Once everyone had a chance to look in the microscope we did an activity to show the global distribution of wealth. I printed off 100 pieces of Monopoly money and grouped the students and counselors into 5 groups. I gave the groups funds based on the champagne glass image of the global distribution of wealth (such as this image). This probably would have been more effective if I would have had 1000 bills rather than 100, or maybe beans or coins instead so they’d be more visually helpful, because I had to give each of the bottom three groups 2 bills each, which wasn’t really accurate or as meaningful. At any rate, then I gave 12 to the fourth group, and I gave 50 bills to the one person at the top, then distributed the other 32 bills roughly evenly between the rest of the people in the top group. I asked them questions about how they all felt about this, and what they noticed. I asked them which group of people was most likely to have access to clean water.

At that point we ran out of time, but I also would have liked to ask them how each group might think about solving problems of pollution in their community. It’s my hunch that probably the groups at the bottom would suggest a communal or socialist solution, where they would either suggest that the rich people help pay to clean up the mess, or that the community works together to chip in to fix the problem, while the richer groups would have just paid for bottled water and such. I would like to see if these responses come out naturally in these groups in a similar way to what we see in society at large. Then I’d ask them to switch places so that the poorer people were at the higher end of the financial spectrum and see if they would do things differently based on their experience of being poor.

I forgot in yesterday’s post to show the update on the compost, trash, and recycling numbers, so I’ll show results for both day 2 and day 3 here. I was really surprised how much the older group got into these stats! They were excited to see them every day, and they were helpful in making sure that compost didn’t go into the trash. Some of them were even pulling compost and recyclables out of the trash and putting them in the appropriate places.

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Spaceship Earth: day 2

Continuing in my series on curricula for a day camp class for grade school kids (entering 2nd-6th grade), I’ll share what I did for day 2 of “Spaceship Earth” at Peace Village Newberg. (Here’s Day 1 if you missed it.)

Day 2 of Spaceship Earth focused on the theme of food and waste. We did a little review/reminder of what “spaceship Earth” was and started thinking about how we’d get food on our spaceship, once we ran out of food we brought with us. We also wondered about what we’d do with the waste we produced. Here’s the lesson plan for Day 2: Food & Waste.

We read the book How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? The Story of Food. They really got into this book! I had them talk about what jobs they saw people doing on a couple of the pages, and explained that those are jobs that help the spaceship keep running smoothly so that we all have enough to eat. We were going to also read Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow: A Compost Story, but they asked good questions in the Lunchbox book, so we just skimmed through the compost book and looked at pictures and talked about what compost is. I had them write down or draw things in their field journals about how we would get food on a spaceship, and what we would do with our waste.

PV16 day 2 - 1Everyone tromped outside to the community garden that’s on the property. I put a shovel out there beforehand so I could turn the compost, and they could see our food scraps from yesterday in the pile. I had them write/draw in their field journals what they saw, heard, smelled, and felt (felt with their skin, and some kids also wrote down how they felt emotionally, which was great!). We talked about how our food scraps turn into dirt that the people who run the community garden put back on the garden to grow more food, so by composting, they were contributing to growing food for people, and maybe even for next year’s campers.

PV16 day 2 -4Then we went in to look at the garden itself. I asked them to be respectful of the people who are gardening the space, and to stay in a line and only walk where I walked so they wouldn’t accidentally step on any plants. They were very respectful! I was impressed. Again, they wrote or drew what they saw, heard, smelled, and felt. I picked lavender and passed it down the row so everyone could smell it, and the kids noticed the bees hard at work and could hear their buzzing. They asked about all the plants that were growing, and I showed them different types of vegetables and roots, so they wrote those down. Since it’s June and this garden doesn’t have berries, there wasn’t anything they could taste, but I assured them they could do that later in the week when we’d have a special guest come on Thursday.

PV16 day 2 - 2We went back inside and everyone shared some of the things they had written down or drawn in their field journals while we were outside.

Then I handed out magazines and scissors and had the students look for one thing each that one could compost, recycle, and throw away. I had them cut out one of each, and then paste it on a poster. These were the posters we used throughout the week to show people where to put their leftover food, etc., and the pictures gave a bit of a guide of what to put in each bin.

PV16 day 2 - 3One funny thing that came up was that some kids wanted to put pictures of cats on the posters. I said, “Well, I guess those go in the compost category,” so we had pictures of cats on our compost poster. That brought up the conversation about how all animals’ bodies eventually decompose and turn back into dirt, and so do the bodies of human beings. Other difficult to categorize images included ice cream and meat. Technically compostable, most people don’t compost dairy or meat because it attracts scavengers and rodents, but it is compostable, so we put them on that poster.

I also had coloring sheets and markers available in case some students got done earlier than others (such as Please Compost, Recycle, and Remember the 3 Rs) and books set out for them to read about food and waste. They could also keep working on decorating the covers of their field journals, using the same magazines, scissors, and glue sticks we were using for the poster activity.

Overall, I think it went well. The only question I had as I was doing this day was that some students have more background than others regarding where food comes from, and have more access to land on which to grow food. I worried a little bit that kids who come from a less privileged background have less knowledge of this stuff already, and some of what we did reinforced these differences. I wanted to let all the kids know that these are options for everyone, since there are community gardens around town that most people could access if they wanted, and many of the grade schools have composting programs, but those who have parents who already do this stuff are perhaps more privileged, or at least more educated, than those who have parents with jobs that don’t allow them time to garden, or who can’t afford to live in a place with a bit of land. Therefore, although I think this stuff is important to teach, I need to think more about how to teach it in a way that doesn’t just reward the kids who know the information already, but that puts kids on a more equal footing. I tried to emphasize that we’re all participating in this process this week, and hopefully that helped.


Re-storying and re-membering at the Christian Feminism Today Conference

Last week I had the opportunity to present a paper at the Christian Feminism Today conference in Indianapolis, IN. This was my first time at this gathering, which has been meeting every other year since the 1970s. I found the community welcoming and so supportive of a newbie to the group! The group included many wise and fun individuals, many of whom have spent their careers dealing with sexism and attempting to enact and embody an egalitarian paradigm in the church and the academy. Many of the people there have been wounded by the church, but refuse to give up, and instead have found this group and found the Spirit present there.

Glen & Fanny11232014_0000 (1)
My great-grandparents, Glen & Fanny (Nutting) Beebe

I personally shared on the topic of: “Christian Feminism for the 21st Century: a prophetic eco-praxis mash-up of tradition and culture that would cause my homesteader great-grandmother and earlier feminists to roll over in their graves.” I think I won the longest title award! I enjoyed sharing about my mom’s “Granny” and what I wish had been passed down through the generations of the knowledge and wisdom she held, and also my recognition that her homesteader lifestyle came at the cost of the livelihood and lives of those who had previously lived on the land. It also came at the cost of the ecosystems that were destroyed by tearing out sagebrush for monocropping and damming the river. I shared that we’re not going to make progress on feminist issues unless we work to make progress on ecological and racial issues at the same time, because they’re all connected to a culture of domination. I had previously written somewhat on this topic for Christian Feminism Today in the article entitled: “Scarcity vs. Abundance: Moving Beyond Dualism to ‘Enough.’

Other presenters included Austin Channing, Grace Ji-Sun Kim, and Diana Butler Bass. I loved having the chance to learn from and meet these excellent speakers and writers. Kristen Kobes Du Mez wrote up an excellent review of the conference, especially connecting the talks of these three women and myself, on her blog on Patheos: “History, Memory, and Relevance: Reflections on Christian Feminism Today.” Go there and read her thoughts!

Grace Ji-Sun Kim

I am honored to be included in such company, and I was grateful to the Spirit for giving me words that fit in with the themes also presented by these other speakers. It felt like we were definitely on the same wavelength. I reviewed Grace Ji-Sun Kim‘s book, Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love, back in January, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her virtually since then. She teaches at the other Quaker seminary, Earlham School of Religion, and her understanding of the Spirit shows a definite Quaker influence! Or, at least, her understanding of the Spirit fits right in in Quaker circles, and she’s listening to the same Spirit I know and connect with as a Friend.

Diana Butler Bass

Surprisingly (to me), Diana Butler Bass‘s talk was also heavily influenced by Quakers. She shared about her newest book, Grounded: Finding God in the World—A Spiritual Revolution. As she was doing research for that book, she learned about her Quaker ancestry. A Quaker myself, I was amazed by how much of an influence her Quaker heritage had on her self-identity, and how much it had impacted her upbringing even though she hadn’t previously known where that stream of her beliefs and being came from. I’m going to read Grounded soon and so I’ll return to this idea later, but I was really struck by the power of our tradition’s emphasis on contemplation and social justice action. We are a small denomination, but God’s Spirit has multiplied our efforts! Butler Bass reminded us that the Bible says a curse will last a few generations, but a blessing will last a thousand generations. May we as Friends continue to be a blessing!

Austin Channing

My own talk followed Austin Channing‘s prophetic message, and I appreciated how she spoke out of her context as an African American woman, both challenging and encouraging this mostly-white group of mostly-women to reach out to one another. She showed us the women in the pre-Exodus story: the midwives, the princess, Miriam, and the mother of Moses. They practiced civil disobedience at all levels of society. As Channing put it, Pharaoh was afraid of the men, but he miscalculated! She encouraged us to not let fear divide us, but to remember and tell the less presentable parts of our stories.

It’s my hope that my work to tell the story of Granny and my Quaker feminist ancestors did this idea justice, telling both the parts I’m proud of and the parts I’m not proud of, and attempting to live in a way that leads to justice for all the marginalized today.

Spaceship Earth: day 1

Peace Village Newberg logoThis past week I taught a class for grade school kids at Peace Village Newberg on the topic of “Spaceship Earth.” Peace Village is an “international nonprofit that teaches the power of peace to children, families, and communities.” We have had a Peace Village day camp at North Valley Friends Church in Newberg, OR for the past 4 years, I believe, and we partner with a Ba’hai congregation, the City of Newberg, and a local Rotary Club. Peace Village intentionally focuses on the themes of mindfulness, connection to nature, media literacy, and conflict resolution. I had the idea to do a class on Quaker economist Kenneth Boulding’s idea of “Spaceship Earth,” and this topic fit well with the Peace Village values. I thought I’d share the curriculum I developed this week, in case anyone wants to use or adapt it. You could use this for any day camp; it wouldn’t have to be for Peace Village.

PV16 day 1 - 1One other thing that made this class relevant was that volunteers from the class signed up to help with sorting compost, recycling, and trash at snack and lunch each day. We got the kitchen staff and the middle school group more on board throughout the week and saw quite a bit of improvement.

A couple weeks before camp started, I went to my local library and picked out some children’s books on the topics we were going to talk about. I asked my friendly librarian to help out, and she found me a bunch of books. I also searched for the terms I’d be talking about and ordered some from other area libraries. I’ve included a bibliography at the end of this post. These are good to have in the classroom for students to read if you end up with extra time at the end of the lesson.


  • Five 50-minute sessions
  • Split into two classes: 2nd-3rd graders and 4th-6th graders
  • Each class had about a dozen students and three high school-aged counselors


Materials Day 1:

  • Field journals: I used small, lined spiral notebooks, about 2″ x 3″, that came in packs of 3
  • Pencils
  • Coloring sheets: Solar System, Simple Spaceship Earth, Earth Doodle
  • Magazines
  • Scissors
  • Glue or glue sticks
  • Compost bin
  • Recycle bin
  • Device to play YouTube video on (with Internet access or download the video beforehand)

PV16 day 1 - 2The first day we really only had about 40 minutes, due to everyone getting used to the schedule, and all the details that have to happen on the first day of camp. I introduced the concept of “Spaceship Earth,” then we played a name game to get to know one another a bit. Each student received a field journal, and they wrote a few things they’d want to bring if they were going on a spaceship, and then a few things we would need to make sure were available if we knew we were going to be on a spaceship for the foreseeable future. The older kids, especially, did a good job of figuring out what things we would need if we were on a spaceship, and eventually realized that we’d need them to cycle through the system rather than just throwing away garbage out the hatch or bringing extra air tanks, so this was a good start to helping them think about how we care for the planet that is our spaceship.

We watched the first part of the YouTube video: “Stunning Views – From Earth to Universe and Back Again,” discussed it, and then read You’re Aboard Spaceship Earth. I explained about the compost and recycling helpers, and students signed up to help out. With any extra time, I had magazines available, books to read, and coloring sheets, so they could decorate the cover of their field journals, read, or color.

This day went well for the 4th-6th grade group. I had a challenge with the younger kids because about 2/3 of the class decided they had to use the restroom in the middle—which was probably true. They hadn’t had time to go during the snack break right before my class. Therefore, everything got a bit disorganized, but it worked out OK. The older kids really liked the book You’re Aboard Spaceship Earth, which I was kind of surprised about, since it goes into quite a bit of detail. I glossed over some of the details and summarized for the younger kids, which worked pretty well, but it was kind of long for their attention span.

We did have a few minutes at the end of the older kids’ class to work on decorating field journals, or reading and coloring.

At the end of the day I gathered all the compost, trash, and recycling and weighed it. Here are our stats for the first day:

Peace Village food waste Monday stats


Day 1 Bibliography:

Bang, Molly. Common Ground: The Water, Earth, and Air We Share. New York, NY: Blue Sky Press, 1997.
Lauber, Patricia, and Holly Keller. You’re Aboard Spaceship Earth. Let’s Read and Find Out Science. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.
Suzuki, David, Wallace Edwards, and Kathy Vanderlinden. You Are the Earth. David Suzuki Foundation. Vancouver, Toronto, Berkeley: Greystone Books, Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group, 1999.
Wieser, Anton. STUNNING VIEWS – From Earth to Universe and Back Again. Accessed July 2, 2016.
Full bibliography for the week:


Anton Wieser. STUNNING VIEWS – From Earth to Universe and Back Again. Accessed July 2, 2016.
Bang, Molly. Common Ground: The Water, Earth, and Air We Share. New York, NY: Blue Sky Press, 1997.
Barnhill, Kelly. Do You Know Where Your Water Has Been? The Disgusting Story behind What You’re Drinking. Mankato, MN: Edge Books, 2009.
Burgan, Michael. Not a Drop to Drink: Water for a Thirsty World. National Geographic Investigates. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2008.
Cole, Joanna, and Bruce Degen. The Magic Schoolbus at the Waterworks. New York, Toronto, London, Auckland, Sydney: Scholastic Inc., 1986.
Duke, Shirley. The Earth and the Role of Water. Vero Beach, FL: Rourke Educational Media, 2013.
Ely, Kosa, and Anna Johnson. The Peaceable Forest: India’s Tale of Kindness to Animals. San Rafael, CA: Insight Kids, 2012.
Gaggiotti, Lucia. How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? The Story of Food. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2011.
Glaser, Linda, and Shelley Rotner. Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow: A Compost Story. Minneapolis, MN: Millbrook Press, 2010.
Harlow, Rosie, and Sally Morgan. Pollution and Waste: Environmental Facts and Experiments. Young Discoverers. New York, NY: Kingfisher, 1995.
Harper, Charise Mericle. Flush! The Scoop on Poop throughout the Ages. New York, NY: Time Warner Book Group, 2007.
Hollyer, Beatrice. Our World of Water: Children and Water around the World. Oxfam. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2008.
Kerley, Barbara. A Cool Drink of Water. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2002.
Lauber, Patricia, and Holly Keller. You’re Aboard Spaceship Earth. Let’s Read and Find Out Science. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.
Menzel, Peter, and Faith D’Aluisio. What the World Eats. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle Press, 2005.
Salas, Laura Purdie, and Violeta Dabija. Water Can Be… Minneapolis, MN: Millbrook Press, 2014.
Strauss, Rochelle, and Margot Thompson. Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2004.
Strauss, Rochelle, and Rosemary Woods. One Well: The Story of Water on Earth. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2007.
Suzuki, David, Wallace Edwards, and Kathy Vanderlinden. You Are the Earth. David Suzuki Foundation. Vancouver, Toronto, Berkeley: Greystone Books, Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group, 1999.
Williams, Karen Lynn, Khadra Mohammed, and Doug Chayka. Four Feet, Two Sandals. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2007.

Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: North Valley Friends Trail

IMG_20160515_163139904We visit the North Valley Friends Trail often! It’s a great place to go to be outside without having to drive far from Newberg (or at all, if you walk or bike there). It’s just north of Newberg, directly north of the Foothills neighborhoods on College St. The trail is about 3/4 of a mile if you walk it in a circle, or 1 mile if you walk it in a figure eight through the parking lot. Pets are allowed on a leash. The trail is paved. It also works for bikes and other wheeled , although you have to be aware of pedestrians.

Pole & LabyrinthThe trail also has some great peace elements, as well as exercise stations. The peace elements include a beautiful labyrinth that’s 65 feet in diameter, peace poles saying: “May peace prevail on Earth,” in English, Spanish, and a number of other languages, and the peace poles also have quotes from peacemakers. Benches are spaced around the trail for quiet reflection. Exercise elements are spread around the trail including a balance bar, a push-up station, and other elements, designed to create an outdoor circuit training experience.


IMG_20160515_172149804_HDRIf you’re interested, you can also download and utilize a series of booklets for self-guided tours around the trail, stopping at each peace pole to reflect on the peacemakers whose quotes grace the poles, other thoughts on peace, the 12 steps of addiction recovery, or poems of peace. The website for the trail also has thoughts about walking the labyrinth, and walking the labyrinth with children. There’s also a prayer wall tucked in the southwest corner of the trail. You can bring a tiny paper and write your prayer on it and tuck it into one of the cracks, like a mini-wailing wall, or you can add a rock to it like a cairn.

K and I went on a walk around the trail a while back, but I forgot to write it up. It was drizzling a little bit, but we still had a good time. We brought a few snacks, and sat on a bench to enjoy them. It’s just the right length for a five-year-old to enjoy the “hike” and be out in nature, but not to get too tired or bored. I loved having time to be with him and hear what he was thinking about and noticing.

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My kids and I like to walk the trail, or run it, stop by the labyrinth and race around it, and look for bugs and other life. Right now there are many wildflowers blooming in the fields. At other times of year, there are blackberries and plumbs to munch. The trail encircles the property of North Valley Friends Church and the future home of Veritas School, and it will eventually also have ball fields for Chehalem Parks & Recreation District, and therefore the trail was a cooperative effort between these organizations (though the peace elements are all a gift from the Friends to the community). All are welcome to enjoy the trail!