A group of young children filed eagerly up the narrow staircase of the Mt. Pleasant Community Library in Washington the other day to celebrate spring. It had rained all morning, but these 5 and 6-year-olds, who had walked from Bancroft Elementary School close by, were in a dry place and prepared for a treat.
Seated on the blue green carpet the children anxiously awaited a screening of a cartoon version of one of their favorite books, "The Lorax."
The youngsters watch and listen as the Lorax, a wise feisty orange-colored furry creature with a yellow bushy mustache, tells how his once glorious paradise was destroyed. He protests as the trees, with beautiful colorful tuffs on top, are cut down one by one to make profitable but useless things.
Soon the beauty is no more. The sky turns gray. The ponds dry up. The animals leave. And, finally, the Lorax escapes through a hole in the smog.
Bancroft Elementary Schoolteacher Shervin Malekzadeh says his students have already dealt, in a personal way, with some of the issues in the movie. "Our hermit crab died yesterday and we took it out and buried it, and in doing so we talked about the sadness of that, but how it contributes to the lifecycle," he says. "And, especially with a movie like this the kids see clearly how taking care of the environment is important and how every little thing contributes to that life cycle we've been talking about. So, basically (we're) trying to tie all that together."
When the movie is over each of the children is given seeds and a small pot to grow a pine tree suited for city life. Three of the children, Eleanor, Taylor and Monica, say they plan to put the lessons of the movie into action.
Eleanor: "I think that that person [in the movie] that was trying to cut down the trees shouldn't be dong that because if there p[weren't] trees you wouldn't be able to breathe."
Skirble: "You're going to take a tree home with you. What are you going to do with that tree?
Taylor: "I'm going to water, and plant and love the tree!"
Skirble: "You're going to water, plant and love that tree!"
Eleanor:"I'm going to water it, and when it's dead I am going to take the seed out and I am going make a new tree."
Skirble:"So you are going to make a little forest in your home."
Eleanor: "I'm going to make a little forest in my home!"
Monica:"When I take the plant, I'm going to treat it like it was a baby because it is so cute!"
The movie and the tree planting kit, are part of the Environmental Film Festival, an annual event this time of year in Washington. Mary McCracken, who coordinates children's programs, hopes the seeds the children take away with them will give birth to critical thinking about the environment.