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Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Posted by BETH WEGNER | March 01, 2017 :

We honor and celebrate the birthday, March 2, of a beloved icon of childhood and a Super Hero for Mother Earth: Dr. Seuss! Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) created imaginary worlds using his bold black and white, pen and ink cartoon illustrations punctuated with bold explosions of brilliant, neon colors to animate his zany, other-worldly characters. His illustrations create distorted, fun house mirror qualities that reflect his commentary on the hypocrisy, ignorance, exploitation and greed underlying social issues and challenges of our consumer-driven, materialistic world. His rhythmic meter made reading a fun adventure. With his catchy rhythmic repetition, he continues to delight children of every age and stage of life!

His masterpiece, The Lorax, is a wake-up call to the world that exhorts us to curb our seemingly insatiable, materialistic addiction which fuels corporate greed and exploitation of the natural resources and beauty of Mother Earth.   Continuation of this destruction and excess places all life in peril. He inspires and empowers generations of children to don the mantle of Super Hero for Mother Earth through his admonition, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

As parents and educators, we have the responsibility to guide children to develop their unique potential and all aspects of their development: creativity/arts, language arts, social/emotional intelligence including compassion and integrity, science/nature processes, math, problem-solving, decision-making and life skills including wellness for a sound mind and body. Higher levels of thinking, learning and synthesizing knowledge are enhanced by fostering activities utilizing imagination and ingenuity.

Today I want to introduce one of my favorite lessons I have developed and shared with many of my classes: “Welcome to my World—Creating Imaginary Worlds”. I was inspired to create this lesson while hiking at McNaughton Park, communing with all the musicians in the symphony of the meadow—each player adding their part to the cantata: the fluting of song birds, the whirring of dragonflies, the droning/buzzing of bees, the staccato pecking of wood peckers, the mournful coo of the doves, the swish of the grasses as deer ran through with their fleet feet. I had this dreamy vision of what fun it would be to create my own world and have no limitations to my creativity. To be able to pick and choose the characteristics I would design in my own world. Imagine a world where deer had wings and their coat could change colors and patterns with the changing environment, frogs that had flaps of skin to glide from tree tops, a mouse with a pouch for carrying her young or seeds found on the ground. All of these adaptations providing more success and less stress—to not just survive, but to thrive in the peaceable kingdom of my dreams.  My students have enjoyed the process of merging their understanding of science and nature processes with imagination to create their own model of an ecosystem. The only limitation is they must be able to describe and explain the interconnectedness and interdependence of all parts of their world. This unit can be done as an individual project, small group project or as a whole class project with all students contributing unique plants and animals to ensure the success of the whole ecosystem. An interesting observation from working with kids on this project; they get very attached to their animals and don't want them to be eaten! They create all kinds of protective features/adaptations to keep them healthy. This activity provides a means to help students apply their knowledge of the natural world in highly inventive ways.

At the end of the project, we have celebratory presentations of their worlds, including snacks named after parts of different worlds. How fun to have a Passport Stamp from each of these worlds and to hypothesize interactions between the different worlds! This activity could be worked on throughout the year and culminating at the end of the year since the worlds can continue growing, changing and evolving!

I am currently going through this process of creating imaginary worlds for a storybook I am writing to empower my students to become Super Heroes for Mother Earth. Let's embark on a voyage to new worlds having “lots of good fun that is funny” to quote our dear Dr. Seuss!