“What do you appreciate?” “What do you value?” “What’s your favorite animal?” “What does the earth need from you?“ “Why should we care?”
These are all big questions that Ellen Sabin, founder and president of Watering Can Press, asks in the children’s activity books she writes. She is focused on helping kids “see how they can make a difference,” she explained to me, because she believes that builds their self-esteem and self-confidence, and “grows kids with character.”
In The Greening Book: Being a Friend to Planet Earth, she hopes to inspire them to make eco-conscious choices in a way that “make(s) it fun, not preachy for kids.” As she writes on her website, her goal with this book is to, “deepen their friendship with the earth and, in turn, develop a lifetime of habits that protect and nurture the world around them.”
How? By inviting them to personally “co-write” a book with her about it, even asking them to write their name on the cover as the co-author. Sabin believes her style makes these lessons “more sticky, habit-forming and memorable.”
Her technique is to intersperse asking them questions that make them think, with illustrations and knowledge, such as how many gallons of water they can save by taking a shower instead of a bath or by turning off the water when they brush their teeth. Then, she gives the child an opportunity to describe actions they have taken or will take.
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Examples of her approach include asking the child:
- What they appreciate and value. Sabin explains that this engages them and reminds them of people and things they may take for granted. This could be: food, clean water, clean air, trees that provide wood for our houses and paper to write on, the parks we walk and play in, and the natural resources that give us energy to power our homes, computers and vehicles.
- To “write about a time when you had fun outside in nature,” with the suggestion that, “you can describe the place you visited, who you were with, what you did, the sounds you heard, and what you saw.”
- “What does the earth need from you if you want to be a good friend to it?” and letting them fill in how they will do so.
- “What is your favorite animal?” Then, asking them to “paste or draw a picture of them here.”
- To “speak up for the earth,” asking them to “write about something you dream about doing that would make you an environmental hero,” like those she features in the book, such as Rachel Carson and Jacques Cousteau.
Some of Sabin’s questions in her books suggest the child ask their family members the questions too, to involve their family in their learning as well. She told me her books are designed as “conversation starters,” and that by having the children engage their family members in the activities in the book, the children can in turn make their parents think about these important topics too.
In her books, Sabin gives the child reader ideas for how they can “be a good friend to the earth,” in The Greening Book,” such as giving away clothes, books and toys instead of throwing them away, recycling and turning off the water when they brush their teeth. Her theory is that we take good care of our friends.
In The Greening Book, Sabin gives the child ideas for how they can “be a good friend to the earth,” such as giving away clothes, books and toys instead of throwing them away, recycling, and turning off the water when they brush their teeth.
After a sponsor signs on to underwrite the book’s initial printing of 10,000 copies or more, which is what starts the process, Sabin said she spends many hours researching the topic. She focuses on children age six to 12, and provides guides for teachers and parents for each book.
Having begun as a book she wrote as a birthday present for her six-year-old niece 13 years ago when she was a public health executive working in Africa, Watering Can Press has published 14 books to date. They include, The Healthy Body Book: Caring for the Coolest Machine You’ll Ever Own, and The Imagine It Book: Discover, Create, And Invent Our Amazing Future, designed to encourage children “to pursue their ideas, embrace their curiosity, and merge creativity with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).”
Sabin added that she wants kids to know, “We choose where we spend our time and our energy , and we can all make a big difference by following that pitter-patter in our hearts, with artistic expressions that serve others.”
This blog first appeared on Forbes.com.