Seeds of change

Author(s): Jen Cullerton Johnson

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3chBQv3
Indigo: N/A

Social Justice focus: Environment

Synopsis: Seeds of Change is based on the true story of Wangari Maathai. The first African woman, and environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Wangari was born in Kenya, she grew up loving the land and respecting the natural environment that surrounded her. Wangari’s curiosity and passion about the environment helped her excel in school. She became a scientist and environmentalist, seeking ways to protect and take care of the natural land she grew up loving. Wangari stood in the face of opposition, standing up for women’s rights and her own Green Belt Movement in an effort to restore Kenya’s ecosystem by planting millions of trees.

Lesson Plan: Toni Macdonald

Primary/Junior/Intermediate Lesson Plan (Abbreviated Template)

Consecutive and Concurrent Programs

Unit/Topic: Language – Social Justice Picture Book: Environmentalism

Grade: 6

Lesson: In this lesson we will be reading, Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace, a social justice picture book about the environment, women’s rights and education. Students will use the context of the picture book to explore environmental protection and activism. Examining the actions of Wangari Maathai on the environment. Connecting to the ideas that maintaining biodiversity is critical to the health of our planet, and humans make choices that impact biodiversity.

Curriculum Areas:

Language: Writing and Oral Communication

Science and Technology: Understanding Life Systems, Biodiversity

Curriculum Expectations:


Overall Expectations:


1. Generate, gather, and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose and audience

2. Draft and revise their writing, using a variety of informational, literary, and graphic forms and stylistic elements appropriate for the purpose and audience

Oral Communication

1. Listen in order to understand and respond appropriately in a variety of situations for a variety of purposes

Specific Expectations:


1.3 Gather information to support ideas for writing, using a variety of strategies and a range of print and electronic resources

2.1 Write longer and more complex texts using a wide variety of forms

Oral Communication: 1.2, 1.6

1.2 Demonstrate an understanding of appropriate listening behaviour by adapting active listening strategies to suit a variety of situations, including work in groups

1.6 Extend understanding of oral texts by connecting, comparing, and contrasting the ideas and information in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights; to other texts, including print and visual texts; and to the world around them

Science and Technology

Overall Expectations:

Understanding Life Systems, Biodiversity:

1. Assess human impacts on biodiversity, and identify ways of preserving biodiversity

Specific Expectations:

Understanding Life Systems, Biodiversity: 1.2


Learning Goal(s):

  • We are learning to effectively listen to a story in order to understand its meaning and message.
  • We are learning to develop thought-provoking questions with the use of a Question Matrix.
  • We are increasing our knowledge and understanding of environmentalism and social justice.

Success Criteria:

  • I can demonstrate attentive and effective listening during the book read aloud.
  • I can make connections between environmental protection, biodiversity and social justice.
  • I am able to develop 3-6 interview questions that demonstrate a deep level of thinking.


  • Provide students a copy of the book text to read and follow along.
  • Group entire class together when reading book in order for everyone to hear and see.
  • Use document camera to display picture book on screen for the whole class to see.
  • Use of slideshow to display book information, background and information on environmentalism.
  • Give students the Question Matrix handout to use.
  • Provide students with example interview questions.
  • Allow students to work with a peer partner.
  • Use of technology (Chromebooks, iPads, PEDs) to complete research and type paragraph and questions.
  • Provide students with informational text on environmental lesson topics, non-fiction books, articles, journals and magazines.



Minutes: 20 minutes


  • Introduction to Social Justice Picture Book and introduce lesson learning goals (reference goals written on board or displayed in slideshow)
  • Facilitate mini discussion about, “What is Social Justice?” and “What is Environmentalism?”
  • Book Background/ Wanagri Maathai
  • Read aloud, Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace
  • Circulate while reading and share photos in book to students
  • Students will be listening to read aloud
  • Give students time to ask questions after book has been read


Purpose: Assessment for learning – Nature: Formative


Minutes: 30 minutes


“Pretend you are a reporter assigned to interview Wangari Maathai after she is released from jail.”

Students will be preparing for an interview with Wangari Maathai, the main character and inspiration for the picture book, Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace. In order to have a successful interview students must research the social justice topic that we are examining, environmental protection and activism in relation to the story. They must also write a series of thought-provoking questions to ask Wangari.

Introduce and review research techniques using devices (Chromebooks, iPads, PED’s) as well as the Question Matrix. The question matrix is used to develop deep and highorder thinking questions. It helps students develop meaningful and thought-provoking questions. It helps students think critically about their interview questions for Wangari.

  • Students will research environmental protection/activism and biodiversity. They will write 1 paragraph that will be their “background knowledge” for the interview
  • Examples: The Green Belt Movement, The Mugumu Tree, Wangari’s Nobel Peace Prize, What does an Environmentalist do?… etc
  • Students will write 3-6 questions to ask Wangari. Students will use the Question Matrix to develop their questions.


Purpose: Assessment for learning – Nature: Formative

  • Assessment Tool: Anecdotal Record
  • Record observations and conversations with students
  • Completion of lesson tasks: 1 paragraph “background knowledge,” 3-6 interview questions?
  • Understanding of environment and social justice?


Minutes: 10 minutes


  • Review lesson learning goals
  • Have students share their interview questions with the class along with any important information they learned while researching
  • Facilitate class discussion
  • Questions to ask class:
    • Why are planting trees important for the environment?
    • What is the importance of environmentalism?
    • How does human activity affect the environment?


Purpose: Assessment for learning – Nature: Formative

Next Steps: Get Involved & Lesson Extension

Wangari has an organization called The Green Belt Movement, on her website they are ways to get involved in the movement.


  • Picture Book, Seeds of Change, By: Jen Cullerton Johnson
  • Lesson Slideshow
  • Question Matrix Chart and student handouts
  • Informational texts, books, articles… etc

Students will need:

  • Paper
  • Pencil, Pen
  • Chromebooks, iPads, PED’s
  • Question Matrix Chart handout


  • Were my students successful in meeting the learning goals and success criteria? How do I know?
  • Did my instructional decisions meet the needs of all students? If not, what are my next steps?
  • What worked well and why?
  • What will I do differently in the future when teaching this lesson? For the subsequent lesson?
  • What are the next steps for my professional learning?


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Social Justice Picture Books Copyright © 2019 by Ruth McQuirter, editor and Gurbinder Kaur, contributing editor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book