Monday, November 14, 2016

Love Letters: An Intergenerational Event

Michael and Audrey both read Love Letters at our Spirit & Place event.
We just completed our inaugural Love Letters to Planet Earth event as part of the Spirit & Place Festival in Indianapolis. It was a great success! I thought it might be helpful to share with you how we put this together so you can stage a similar event at your school or community center.

Basic idea: Children — we picked third graders — learn about the beauty of nature and the challenges nature faces due to human impact, then write love letters to the planet, focusing on whatever they want: what they love, what makes them happy, what gives them concern. These love letters are read aloud to their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, who then take time to write letters in return (more on that below). Then the elders read their letters aloud to the 3rd graders.

Step one: Find partners to help you! For our Earth Charter Indiana program, Youth Power Indiana, we found great partners in Elder's Climate Action, The Nature Conservancy and our host school, The Orchard School. That got a lot of brains in the room to figure out a great event!

Step two: Identify partner schools if you want to broaden out the event past your school. For us, we picked Crooked Creek Elementary, St. Thomas Aquinas School, The Children's House, and, of course, Orchard. I visited each of the schools with a presentation on some of the challenges we are placing on nature, and also how young people are addressing those challenges through sustainability and civics. Melissa Moran followed up with her presentation on Children of Indiana Nature Park, via The Nature Conservancy.

Step three: Write those letters! Sure, having community volunteers like Melissa and me is great, but the real work is really with the teachers and how their going to bring out the best in their kids. Here are some sample letters from the 3rd graders.

For all Love Letters, visit our Youth Power Indiana Love Letters page.

Step four: Arrange a location and hold your event! For us, we decided that the 3rd grade letters came first, then we gave a couple high school students the opportunity to present a short science presentation on climate change. Next, we held an elder meeting right after where local non-profit leaders could share with the assembled the work they do to preserve the natural world. This helped the elders consider what their letters should contain, then they wrote their letters and read them.

What did the children do while the elders read letters? They played games elsewhere at Orchard, then went outside to hug trees! (see below).

It's that simple, really. The event cost nothing to put on, and everyone had a great time. What could be better? See below for images captured at the event.

We managed to get about three dozen 3rd graders up to the stage to read their letters! More letter readers, below:

As part of the event, high school sophomores Cora (left) and Maddie did a short presentation on climate change. 
One Love Letter reader, Lukas, gave a tree a big hug during play time.
A gathering of elders to discuss the letters the children read.

Sharon Horvath, a teacher at St. Thomas, reads her letter.

Wayne Moss, reading his letter


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