A True Story from Africa

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Wangari's Tree's of Peace by Jeanette Winter

Grade: 5th grade

Author and Illistrator Jeanette Winter writes a true story of a young lady who grows up in rural Kenya, leaves to attend college in the states and upon her return finds her home land has changed because the trees have been destroyed. Wangari Maathai takes it upon herself to start making a change. By planting nine small trees, her initiative to bring back the forest and the rich plentiful land to her beloved country grows into a large project taken on by other women of the area. Soon over 30 millions trees have been planted. Her act in starting the Green Belt Movement has inspired peace and determination for making a change.
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Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai grows up in Kenya and as a young adult travels to the United States to attend college. She attended college in Atchison Kansas receiving a bachelors degree in Biological Sciences. She continued her studies in the U.S. and Germany receiving a Masters Degree, and later a PhD at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. Professor Maathai started the Green Belt Movement in Kenya in 1977 in response to the needs of the people and the environment where she lives. She received the Nobel Peace prize in 2004 for her work in social, economic, and cultural development, her holistic approach to sustainable development, along with democracy and women's rights.
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Meet the Author: Jeanette Winter

Author and Illustrator Jeanette Winter is known for her art and for writing child friendly biographies. Her stories are written in short simple sentences that are easy for children and teachers to read. She has written and illustrated over 60 books, many of which have received awards and special mention. This book earned the NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2009.

Culture and Traditions of Kenya

Capitol: Nairobi

Kenya is a multilingual country with approximately 62 languages spoken. The official languages are Swahili and English. Kenyans are a friendly, hospitable people. They are group-oriented and believe in mutual effort and mutual responsibility. Family is an important component to the Kenyans which includes extended family. Because family holds a social importance marriage and children are key to this factor.

Handshakes are a traditional custom for greeting in Kenya. Dress for Kenyans is conservative. Typically the emphasis is on appearing smart and well dressed which is also a matter of pride.

In Kenya the majority of young children are not educated above primary level. Children are usually forced to work early to help with family costs. Sometimes family members will group together to finance the education of the most promising child. When they begin work they will repay the loan or fund the education of a sibling.

Agriculture plays an important role in the economy in Kenya with tea as the main earner. They also grow sugar cane, maize, plantains, and beans for local consumption. Drought and deforestation are a concern.

Men are primarily responsible of the care of the animals. In agricultural communities both men and women work in the field but women do a large majority of the work. Along with working in the field the women are also responsible for taking care of the children, hauling water and wood, keeping a vegetable garden and taking food to the market. Men sometime seek jobs in the city.


Barren: to poor to produce vegetation.

Nursery: a place to grow young plants and trees for sale or to be planted elsewhere.

teaching strategies:

* write definition in their own words

* write the word in a sentence

* draw a picture that represents the word

Criteria for Multicultural Literature

* Rich in cultural details: shows how the women are working, how they are dressed in skirts and headbands

* Include members of a "minority: group for a purpose other than filling a "quota": this story refers to the women in the community who pull together to make a difference.

* Portray cultural accuracy and authenticity of characters: the story refers to the women who gather wood for cooking and harvest the food. pictures of the huts they live in, the animals in the background and the scenery.

Sample questions:

Before: What is the problem with destroying trees?

During: What happens at harvest time?

During: Why do you think she calls the plants "seeds of hope?"

During: What explanation do you have for why they put Wangari in jail?

After: Predict the outcome if Wangari or the other women had not planted the trees.