Thank God I have the seeing eye, that is to say, as I lie in bed I can walk step by step on the fells and rough land seeing every stone and flower and patch of bog and cotton pass where my old legs will never take me again. — Beatrix Potter
IN TODAY'S SESSION... We introduced Beatrix Potter, author of Peter Rabbit and many other children's classics, who was a naturalist and farmer, an author and illustrator, and a Unitarian. We talked about our seventh Principle, respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part, imagined ourselves as various parts of an ecosystem, and created a mural depicting the connected nature of an ecosystem. Our signpost to help guide us in faithful action was "Honor Life."
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Talk about... Talk with your child about encounters with nature that stand out vividly in your own life. When have you felt especially connected with nonhuman life? What have you learned from animals or plants? How can observing or listening to other beings in our interdependent web of life teach us how to care best for the Earth we share? Encourage your child to share their own responses to these questions.
EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Try... Our session centered on the interdependent web and introduced the concept of ecosystems. How would you describe the ecosystem your family belongs to? Where does your food come from? Where do you get shelter? Who beyond your family shares food or shelter with you? You may wish to expand your family's role in your ecosystem by building a bird house or bird feeder, composting, planting a butterfly garden or planting vegetables you can harvest and share.
A family camping trip or hike can be a great way to connect both with nature and with one another. Even a picnic in the park or backyard can bring your family in closer contact with the natural world. While you are outdoors, talk about the various life forms you find around you.
A FAMILY RITUAL
Mitakuye oyasin is a Lakota Sioux phrase that is generally translated as "all my relations." It is a prayer of oneness with all forms of life: other people, animals, birds, insects, trees and plants, and even rocks, and expresses much the same concept as the interdependent web of all existence. You may wish to use mitakuye oyasin or its English translation, "all my relations," as a prayer of gratitude and appreciation, particularly when you notice beauty in nature or evidence of nature's interconnections. The words can also serve as a closing phrase for other prayers, such as table grace or prayers at bedtime.
A FAMILY GAME
Play a game based on the connections of an ecosystem. Have one family member self-identify as a plant or animal. The next person self-identifies as another plant or animal and tells how it relates to the first. For instance, if the first person said, "I am a bear," the second person might say, "I am a salmon that was eaten by the bear." The game continues as each person self-identifies in connection to the previous beings: "I am a bug that was eaten by the salmon that was eaten by the bear." / "I am a shrub that sheltered the bug that was eaten by the salmon that was eaten by the bear." A player who cannot add to the list of beings in relationship may start the game over by introducing a new animal or plant.
An extensive Beatrix Potter website has information about Potter's life and world, as well as games for children, and you can find many of her books, complete with pictures, online. Your family may enjoy watching the 2006 movie, Miss Potter, or the 1971 movie, Tales of Beatrix Potter, featuring the Royal Ballet.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has an excellent Environmental Kids Club with environmental information and games for children. Fans of Dr. Seuss's environmental children's book, The Lorax, will enjoy this Lorax Save the Trees game. On the BBC website, find interactive games for elementary-school-age children that explore interconnections in the natural environment and other science, health and ecology topics.