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BLAST Elementary
Planting the Trees of Kenya

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai
Written and Illustrated by Claire A. Nivola

Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the Green Belt Movement, grew up in the highlands of Kenya, where trees cloaked the hills, fish filled the streams, and the people tended their gardens. But over many years, as more and more land was cleared, Kenya was transformed. When Wangari retrned home from college in America, she found the streams dry, the people malnourished, and the trees gone. How could she alone bring back the trees and restore the gardens and the people?


Open-Ended Questions

These questions can be used during an interactive read aloud to engage student interest.

  • What does it mean that "the earth was clothed in its dress of green? (page 1)
  • Look at the illustrations on pages 1-2 and pages 7-8. What differences do you notice? (page 7-8)
  • What other problems could result from having fewer and fewer trees? (page 9)
  • What does Wangari mean when she says, "When we see that we are part of the problem, we can become part of the solution?" What do you think her "big idea" is? (page 13)
  • How did work bring the people together? (page 21)
  • Why did Wangari give seedlings to the soldiers? (page 25)

Vocabulary Words

  • Inspiring
  • Exposed


African Rain Song

You can bring part of the African culture into your classroom by teaching the students a traditional rain song!

Imvula, Imvula

Chapha, chapha, chapha

chapha, chapha, chapha

Im anz'im pahla yam'

Im anz'im pahla yam'

Gqum, Gqum, Liyaduduma

Gqum, Gqum, Liyaduduma

Im anz'im pahla yam'

Im anz'im pahla yam'


It's rainging, it's raining

Chapha, chapha, chapha

Chapha, chapha, chapha (sound of the rain falling)

My clothes are getting wet,

My clothes are getting wet.

Gquam, Gquam (sound of the thunder)

There's the thunder!

Gquam, Gquam,

There's the thunder!

My clothes are getting wet,

My clothes are getting wet!


Journal Questions

  • Wangari said, "When we see that we are part of the problem, we can become part of the solution." What are some small things you can do here at your school that can help the environment?

Wangari Maathai is a real person who accomplished a lot of amazing things. If you had a chance to meet her, what would you say? What questions would you ask?


Extending Books

Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa
Written by Jeanette Winter

This true story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a shining example of how one woman's passion, vision and determination inspired great change.


Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain: A Nandi Tale
Retold by Verna Aardema

Illustrated by Beatniz Vidal

A cumulative rhyme relating how Ki-pat brought rain to the drougt-stricken Kapiti Plain

Tree of Life: The World of the African Baobab
Written by Barbara Bash

Text and pictures document the life cycle of this amazing tree of the African savannah, and portrays the animals and people it helps to support.



Mama Miti
Written by Donna Jo Napoli
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

The story of Wangari Maathai, who in 1977 founded the Green Belt Movement, an African grassroots organization and in 2004 was the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.