It’s a weird synchronicity. The week my book KIDS MAKE IT BETTER: A WRITE-IN, DRAW-IN JOURNAL made its way into stores, disturbing photos of oil-doused ducks started cropping up all over the place. A nearly identical photograph had been the genesis of the book.
I was teaching 2nd and 3rd grades, and a bunch of my kids were upset. I asked them why, and they described the photo of the ailing duck they’d seen on the front page of The Boston Globe that morning. I put aside my lesson plan. We talked about the spill and the sea life for a little bit, and then I handed out some paper. I asked the kids another question:
“If you were in charge, if you were the President, or a scientist, or an inventor, what would you do to clean up the oil spill?”
And the kids began to write and draw. Meghan wrote, “I would get a big sponge and tie it with ropes to a helicopter. Then lower it down and soak up all the oil.” Kathryn wrote, “I would put suntan lotion on all the animals. Then take the water out, wash it in a washing machine and put it back.”
They weren’t daunted. They were busy “solving” the problem, and as each minute passed (maybe fifteen in all), they grew visibly less and less upset. Watching them work away, I realized I could put any problem in front of any roomful of kids and wind up with a roomful of solutions. Eighty classrooms later, I had the beginnings of the KIDS MAKE IT BETTER book
The oil spill problem didn’t make the final cut. But BP’s attempts to stop the leak could easily have been imagined by kids—they involve robots, a big box cover, shooting mud or possibly stuffing balls into the spill. Trouble is, so far nothing is working. We need more ideas. So why not try asking your kids for theirs?
Don’t stop there–get them to work on air pollution, fixing the hole in the ozone, or what to do with all of our garbage. Then help them put their empathy and imagination into action by coming up with and following a simple plan. (Editor Note, above is an example of a completed page 6 of the book. In addition, the action plan is free to download. You can also see the activity guide in the book layout here.)
My 5½-year-old hasn’t seen any duck photos, but now she’s heard me tell the duck story, by her count, a thousand times. Her off the cuff solution? “Why can’t they just wash the oil off the ducks with soap?”
That sounded eerily familiar. I went to my laptop to check. “Yep, mild dish soap and warm water. Genius!” She beamed.
Editor note: Pictured to the left is author, Suzy Becker. Thanks, Suzy for creating this wonderful journal and bringing it to the attention of the Green Talk readers. Readers, Suzy’s book would make a wonderful birthday gift for either your child or your children’s friends. To buy this book, see here, and help kids change the world. Has your own child, grandchild, niece or nephew come up with some solutions to help our Earth? Please let us know if the comments below.