This 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.
One 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
- Day 1: Introduction to Spaceship Earth (download the first day’s lesson plan)
- Day 2: Food & Waste
- Day 3: Water & Soil
- Day 4: Biodiversity
- Day 5: Reflect
Materials Day 1:
- Field journals: I used small, lined spiral notebooks, about 2″ x 3″, that came in packs of 3
- Coloring sheets: Solar System, Simple Spaceship Earth, Earth Doodle
- Glue or glue sticks
- Compost bin
- Recycle bin
- Device to play YouTube video on (with Internet access or download the video beforehand)
The 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:
Day 1 Bibliography: