Youth learn environmental lessons during Mission 4/1 Earth
Written by Emily Schappacher May 2, 2013
A young boy from Trinity UCC in Biglerville, Pa., helps plant a pin oak tree in the church yard.
It's never too early to start taking care of creation. The Sunday school class for preschoolers ages 2 to 5 learned a lot about sustainability as part of the Mission 4/1 Earth efforts at Trinity United Church of Christ in Biglerville, Pa. By keeping it simple and letting the children express themselves through hands-on activities, Emmi Sander thinks the little stewards took home a big lesson.
"We really drilled into them that there are easy things all of us can do to take care of the earth," said Sander, director of Christian education. "I think they took away from this, 'I'm small but I can do something.'"
The lesson started out with the meaning of a "steward," which Sander defined as someone who takes care of something, and the group discussed ways they can be good stewards of the church and of the earth. The children were then asked to draw pictures of things they love about God's creation on compostable paper. Some preschoolers drew mountains, and others drew trees and animals. The children then planted a pin oak tree in the church yard and placed their drawings in the hole to be buried with the tree's roots.
"They learn by doing, so I wanted to do something with them that would illustrate this," said Sander. "The drawings were offered as a prayer of thanks and to become part of the tree and part of the earth. This is their tree now, and the children will continue to look after it through the school year."
Sander said pin oak trees grow fairly quickly, so the children should see some progress and a visual representation of their stewardship by the end of the summer. In addition to the tree planting project, the children are spending a lot of time outdoors and playing games that highlight the earth and the story of Genesis throughout the 50-day earth care campaign.
Saint Paul's UCC in Evansville, Ind., is also getting the youth in on the Mission 4/1 Earth action. Children in fifth grade and younger learned about three of the countries serving as the UCC's global tree planting partners and voted to select Kenya as the place they would like to plant 60 trees. They made bird feeders out of recycled two-liter soda bottles, collected more than 1,000 bags for the local food pantry, and donated a trailer full of aluminum cans to Habitat for Humanity. They also wrote letters of environmental advocacy and enjoyed outdoor games that emphasized the care of the earth.
"As we closed with the song, 'If You're Happy and You Know It,' one of the children asked that we add a verse to this happy song and suggested that we sing, 'If you're happy and you know it love the earth,'" said the Rev. Daniel Sather, pastor of Saint Paul's UCC. "It was three great hours for the earth."