Earth Day took place early this year at my daughter's elementary school. The message? Every day is Earth Day.
Due to conflicts in the spring this year, the school elected to hold "Earth Day" in November. At first I was a little perturbed, but then, I figured – hey, every day is Earth Day, so let's make the most of it.
I was invited to return this year and repeat my natural hand sanitizer presentation. But I thought the kids were ready for something new (and I was becoming a bit of a one-trick pony). So I decided to branch out a bit and broaden the scope of my presentation. I called it "Healing with Nature." To me, the most important thing was for the children to realize that our health is intimately connected to the health of our planet. So with the help of my trusted green-thumb pal, Nurse Karen, I collected samples of things found in nature (or, for that matter, in the kitchen cupboard) with healing properties. What to choose among so many options? Here's what we came up with:
2. Aloe Vera
The cinnamon and eucalyptus (as well as the aloe) are in the hand sanitizer recipe, so the kids were sort of familiar with those already. I explained how what they see on their plate (powdered spices) come from plants and trees (or parts of them) and that we need to take care of these natural resources or we won't have important healing remedies (or tasty foods). We talked about how many native cultures only had these resources for healing (no local CVS or 24 hr Rite Aid pharmacies to visit) and considered the earth to be vitally connected to human existence; that we are but one part of the universe.
I think they really enjoyed examining the aloe leaf and the gel that comes from it – many have them at home and were intrigued that you could directly use a plant to heal skin irritation. About 50%, it seems, love garlic – and 50% hate it. But they all thought it was pretty cool that you could mix garlic in olive oil and treat ear pain and infections. Most knew the story of Peter Rabbit and how Momma Rabbit gives him chamomile at the end of a very tough day in Mr. McGregor's garden. The lavender smell made them sleepy and peaceful (teachers were probably happy abou this), and when we discussed honey, they all seemed to understand the importance of bees in our environment (even if some are a bit fearful). I was impressed at how many already used these remedies at home. Visiting the school always makes me hopeful for our future – I think we'll be in good hands.
I closed with excerpts from the famous "Web of Life" speech attributed to Chief Seattle. Turns out that this speech delivered in 1854 was given in his native language, and subsequent translations may be fake. He may not have actually spoken any of these words. But the environmentalism message is well intentioned and powerful, so no matter who actually wrote/said it, I think it sent the kids off on the right foot for "early Earth Day."
The voice of my grandmother said to me:
Teach your children what you have been taught. The earth is our mother. What befalls the earth befalls all the sons and daughters of the earth.
Preserve the land and the air and the rivers for your children's children and love it as we have loved it.