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Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children Paperback – July 1, 1992
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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Dig your thumbnail into a dandelion stem. Watch the milky juice ooze out and feel it, sticky, on your fingers. Then thread the next hollow stem through the slit. Making flower wreaths used to be a wonder-filled way to spend a springtime afternoon! First, the gathering of the blossoms, then the task of wreath-making finally the transformation as you and your friends each assume a royal role, flower crowned for the pageant! Today these simple activities that brought children in close contact with their natural world have gone by the wayside. . . .
Now a new activity book designed for classroom use and for families has revived many old-fashioned nature activities and supplied an updated view on the importance of providing opportunities for children to interact with dirt and bugs and wool and plants real things as opposed to Barbie dolls and Ninja Turtle figures. Earthways is devoted primarily to craft ideas based on natural materials that can be frown, gathered, baked, woven, molded, and sometimes used in dramatic play. These crafts are unusual in that they can be shared in the doing and the giving and the eating. They can be enjoyed for the process and the product, which often turns out to be an object of simple beauty. . . .
the organization of this book makes it possible for a teacher or parent to move directly to a particular season to find a variety of activities, each geared to a minimum age level (i.e., age 3 and up). Every seasonal section begins with a short introduction chock-a-block full of ideas rooted in concern for a wide range of environmental issues. Special heading identify projects that "supply missing links,' helping children to make connections (e.g., tomatoes grow on vines, not in cans) and apply the skills they are learning as they garden and work with art materials. Throughout the book, each project is outlined in clear, concise language and illustrated with Donald cook's charming, soft black-and-white drawings that make it easy to follow the instructions.
A particularly noteworthy feature of Earthways is the resource section in the back, which contains useful lists of suppliers of art materials, garden tools, books, and toys. "Green" organizations are listed so that teachers can network their ecological concerns and acquire additional information. . . .
Petrash is Waldorf trained, and readers familiar with the Waldorf School and Rudolf Steiner's philosophy of education will recognize certain gentle components of that system of ideas: a project for sewing felt gnomes; the use of beeswax, watercolors, and carded wool; a preference for wooden toys. A sense of peace and centeredness is fostered throughout the book. . . .
As an introduction to another way of doing things, another way of viewing our world, this is a timely book, because it is solidly grounded in an awareness of the urgent need to do something to reverse the unfortunate results of our rampant materialism. Earthways makes the hopeful statement that one person can make a difference. By raising children with an understanding of the fragile beauty of their surroundings and helping them to assume a joyful responsibility for protecting this precious environment, a teacher, or a parent, can change the world. -- Holistic Education Review
Early childhood author Carol Petrash has gathered more than 100 classroom activities designed to help preschool children grow in what Rachel Carson called "the sense of wonder." The difference from other children's craft books is signaled by the first chapter, which describes setting up an "earth-friendly" home and classroom and breaking the throw-away habit. The activities are organized by season and age groupings (3-plus to 5-plus). Making leaf crowns, nut people, seasonal gardens, drying and roasting pumpkin seeks (after the usual carving) are activities that can help children become creators in rhythm with the Earth in a way deliberately focused away from consumption of purchased materials. A section on creating a more natural outdoor play space in a bare asphalt schoolyard is especially interesting. A find resource for people working with young children. -- Earth Ethics (Washington, D.C.)
Earthways is a treasure trove of developmentally-appropriate, imaginative activities in science, nature and art designed to empower young children to feel a joyous kinship with nature. Organized by seasons, this resource book devotes large sections to various nature crafts and natural toys with which young children can celebrate the gifts of the seasons and experience the rhythms and changes of their world. A sampling of seasonal crafts include wheat weaving and leaf crowns in the fall, star windows and snow scenes in the winter, dish gardens and press flower cards in the spring, and paper birds and walnut boats in the summer. Each craft is well-organized, clearly written, and beautifully enhanced by soft, pastel, pencil drawings. Although many of the hands-on activities and crafts are self-directed, some activities do need adult supervision (building an outdoor bean tepee playhouse using five-foot sticks or bamboo poles, or baking a berry shortcake or cobble). . .
Young children are born with the sense that their natural world is good and beautiful. Earthways provides simple and enjoyable activities for fostering these positive feelings for the earth. By engaging in these suggested activities, young children can increase their sense of natural wonder and learn to treat the earth not as a commodity to exploit and damage but as a cherished gift to love, respect and protect. -- Chicago Metro AEYC Connections
From the Back Cover
Earthways is filled with hands-on nature crafts and seasonal activities to enhance environmental awareness. The activities are carefully written and beautifully illustrated. Children play with the elements of earth, air, and water. They develop a respect for nature, for the earth and for all living creatures. They experience the awe and wonder of the world around them.
Children learn firsthand about their dependence on the earth. They can learn how to take stalks of wheat and turn them into flour for making bread, how to be a creator and not just a consumer by making gifts, how to make butter and grow food (even in the city), and how to make outdoor playhouses.
Seasonal suggestions for creating a more earth-friendly home and classroom are also included, in addition to a comprehensive resource list.
Seasonal activities and crafts include:
Caring for the Birds and Squirrels
Round Wind Wands
Butterfly Pop-Up Cards
Pressed Flower Cards
Shooting Star Streamer Balls
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Waldorf-oriented or not - I highly recommend this book!
Carol Petrash, a warm and inspiring writer, takes you by the hand at the beginning of Autumn. With ideas for how to gradually transform your classroom environment, she introduces each season and has you start making changes -- first a little in Autumn, then more ideas for Winter, continuing on with new changes in Spring, and so on -- and shares her ideas for "Bringing Nature In" (self-explanatory) and "Supplying the Missing Links" (which focuses on re-establishing connections that children are missing with the natural world, such as how butter is made), both recurring categories throughout the book.
She also gives general craft ideas organized by season throughout the book (such as Wheat Weaving, Leaf Crowns, Lanterns, Star Windows, Finger Knitting, May Baskets, Shooting Star Streamer Balls, Walnut Boats, Paper Birds) but "Bringing Nature In" and "Supplying the Missing Links" are the real heart of the book -- and what makes it such a gem. Some examples are Creating a Seasonal Garden, From Wheat to Bread, Pumpkins, Indian Corn, Beeswax, Butter, Wool, Gardening with Children, Building Playhouses Outdoors, Berries, and Basket Weaving. For each, she gives several ideas so you really get to explore the topic. Instead of just one activity, it is more like a "weekly theme" on Berries, perfect for how a classroom teacher would use this book. She even includes a sample field trip slip.
If you're familiar with Waldorf there's not a lot here that will be new, but if you are just starting out, this books covers a lot of ground at a very reasonable pace -- and a reasonable price. Instead of tearing your hair out trying to replace all your children's toys at once and learning how to bake from scratch, etc., try this book and let it slowly help you find your way. Enjoy this year of change, and by the summer you'll be proudly observing the transformation in your home and in your lives and you will take much pleasure and pride in watching your children grow, learn, and flourish.
Fall activities include: leaf crowns, leaf banners, nature's people, laterns, apple drying, baking apples, wheat to bread, harvesting pumpkins, making corn husk dolls and grating the cobs. Winter activites include: star windows, nutmeg grating, finger knitting, sewing gnomes and yarn dolls. Spring activities include: wing wands, streamers, pinwheels, kites, dish gardens, butterfly mobiles, flower crowns, pressed flower cards, making flower necklaces, butter making, wool preparations and gardening with children. Summer activites include: shooting star streamer balls, butterfly crowns, walnut boats, bark boats, parachute people, paper birds, bean tepee, berry picking, making berry cobbler and basket weaving.
In addition to seasonal activites, Earthways also includes: making children's cloth aprons, creating a seasonal garden or a nature table, recycling, discussion of toys from nature and creating a more natural outdoor play space. There is also a section of various gift and candle making activites.
Aside from being a great introduction to Waldorf, the book offers wonderful activites for the family to create, explore and discover together. Quality family time at it's best.
For parents wanting to learn more, the book has a tremendous resource section of suppliers, organizations and environmental books. There are resoures for teachers. I absolutely love the seasonal picture book resource section, it's 4 pages long!
Would you like to incorporate more natural, independent, or creative play? I encourage you and your family to grab a basket and go on a nature walk to collect nature objects. Collect some shells, rocks, pinecones, acorns, twigs, flowers, leaves, seed pods and display them on a low shelf or table in your house. See how your child's imagination and creativity take flight, as your child comes to the table to plays with these objects. I was amazed when my daughter stood up 3 pinecones to represent our family and began to play with them.