Spaceship Earth: day 5

On the final day of my Spaceship Earth class at Peace Village, Newberg, we spent some time reviewing what we’d learned, discussing what stood out, and then making seed pods. (See Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4 if you missed them, and/or download the full Spaceship Earth day camp plan.) Peace Village does a showcase on Friday night at the end of camp, where parents and other family and community members can see what the kids have been experiencing and working on all week. I had the kids look back through their field journals and talk about what stood out to them from each day, then I wrote down what the they said. Later, I made a reader’s theatre that explained what we did each day and what they learned. I asked for volunteers to read that night at the showcase. In hindsight, this was a big ask—to get 3rd-6th graders to read something they’d never read before on stage in front of a bunch of people—but they did great! I’ll copy below what they came up with. I also had a PowerPoint with the results of the compost, recycling, and trash project. Also below you’ll find some audio interviews of Peace Village campers recorded KLYC Yamhill County News Radio.

PV16 day 5
Seed pods drying in the sun

I thought it would be fun for the kids to have something they could take home to plant, and a friend gave me the idea to do seed pods. (Others call them seed bombs, but at Peace Village I figured sending home bombs might not be the best idea!) Basically, you get some clay from the art supply section at a supermarket, and then get some seeds to put inside. I got an package of assorted herbs and one of assorted wildflowers. I mixed them all together, but you could separate them if people wanted to know what they were planting. The people who suggest seed bombs are basically trying to do guerrilla gardening, so they suggest dropping them over the fence in abandoned lots, or planting them in the grassy areas in a median that isn’t very pretty, or other places in need of beautification. We handed out the seed pods at the evening showcase.

Seed Pod Instructions:

  • clay: 2 packages from a craft supply store or section of a supermarket
  • knife to cut up the clay
  • tray to set the seed pods on
  • seeds: I used about 6 packets of flowers and 4 packets of herbs for 45 kids
  • 2 bowls (one for herb seeds and one for flower seeds)

Cut the clay into small cubes, about 3/4 inch per side. Roll into balls.

Kids take a clay ball, make a dent in it with their thumb, and sprinkle in herb or flower seeds, close up the hole, and roll it into a ball again. Set on tray. Once all the pods are finished, set the trays outside in the sun until hard and dry.

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Spaceship Earth Showcase Readers Theatre
(Verbatim remarks from students about what they learned)
7 Readers + Teacher

Teacher: This week we focused on the theme “Spaceship Earth,” a term coined by the Quaker economist Kenneth Boulding. We enjoyed putting on our space suits each day as we imagined our little planet traveling through space.

Reader 1: We learned that Earth is like a spaceship because 1. It zooms around in space, and 2. If we run out of something, like if an animal goes extinct, we can’t get it back.

Reader 2: I learned about the different things that Earth provides and that if we lived on any other planet we’d probably die.

Reader 3: When you go on a spaceship you need to bring food and all you need to survive, like water and oxygen.

Teacher: The other days we learned about the life support systems that keep our “Spaceship Earth” running. On the second day, we learned about food and waste.

PV16 day 5 - 2Reader 4: Earth breaks down things, and they don’t just lie there, or else we would all die.

Reader 5: Almost any kind of food can break down into compost, but plastic can’t, and neither does metal or glass.

Reader 6: And lavender smells really good!

Teacher: On the third day, we learned about the water cycle and pollution.

Reader 7: There are living things everywhere, even in dirty water. We saw them through the microscope.

Reader 1: Water can be an entire city for creatures!

Teacher: On the fourth day, we learned that not only is diversity important in people, it’s important to have biodiversity. We need all the living creatures in order to keep this spaceship running smoothly!

Reader 2: We learned about how bees make honey and I learned that to make a queen they either use eggs or they give a bee royal jelly.

Reader 3: We learned that honey is bee barf!

Teacher: Today we talked about how we participated this week to make sure Spaceship Earth keeps running smoothly by composting and recycling instead of putting everything in the trash.

Reader 4: We are giving peace to the planet by composting.

Reader 5: We are helping plants grow when we get and use compost, and that goes to helping people eat who might not otherwise have food.

Reader 6: On Monday, we had 60% trash, and only 9% recycling and 31% compost.

Reader 7: Everyone helped out, and today we composted 59%, recycled 15%, and only threw 25% away in the trash.

Teacher: Overall this week, we learned to participate in taking care of Spaceship Earth so it can support life into the future. Our totals for the week were 59% compost, 31% trash, and 10% recycling. Here’s a chart that shows our day-to-day progress. This final chart shows how many pounds of waste we created. This is much better than the national average! Most Americans get rid of 4.4 pounds of trash, recycling, and compost per person, per day, and only 1.5 pounds of it is composted or recycled, meaning that 2.9 pounds per person goes into landfills every day. Eventually we’re going to run out of space for landfills on our little spaceship if we don’t all do our part! Here at Peace Village, we got rid of 2.53 pounds per person, per day, and we recycled and composted 1.74 pounds of it per person per day. That’s pretty good! Well done, everyone!

The rest of you can participate in taking care of Spaceship Earth, too. We talked about biodiversity, and how we can help create habitat for pollinators, who help pollinate our food. We had a beekeeper come share with us, and we got to taste his bees’ honey! We want to support those bees, so you can take with you tonight a seed pod we made in class today. There are herb pods and flower pods. Set the pod in your garden or a flowerbed and it will decompose and you’ll eventually have flowers and herbs to enjoy, to help pollinate, to help cycle the air, and to eat. Thanks to everyone who’s participated this week, and who will participate by planting these seeds!


KLYC Yamhill County News Radio

KLYC came to record some of the kids at Peace Village sharing about their experiences. If you want to hear those interviews, listen below. Check out Peace Village interview 3 at about 2:10 to hear a very special Peace Village camper!


PV16 group photo
Peace Village 2016

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.


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.