At age 12, Aitan Grossman was inspired by An Inconvenient Truth and began a journey that led him to use music to advocate for the preservation of the natural landscape around him. He wrote a song, “100 Generations,” and started his own non-profit to raise funds for wildlife conservation. His goals were to raise awareness, have students from many countries record his song, and inspire young people that at any age, they could make a difference.
This lesson addresses the following SEL strategies. You can have students look for these issues and examine them in themselves.
- Self-awareness: Aitan used personal agency and action to speak about a matter that concerned him and the world.
- Self-management: Aitan spread his message to inspire kids all around the globe and formed a non-profit when he was only thirteen years old.
- Social awareness: Aitan used his song to bring social awareness about environmental issues.
- Relationship skills: Aitan connected with kids in different parts of the world and got them to record his song with him.
- Responsible decision-making: Aitan enlisted the help of his friends, family and networks to help him achieve his goal.
1. Prior to showing the video, briefly explain the primary themes of the video. Use some or all of the following questions (include at least one writing prompt):
- Do you believe that you can make a difference?
- What do you know about the current ecological crises? List some factors you think contribute to global warming.
- How aware do you think people are about global warming, species extinction, and the depletion of fossil fuels? What helps bring these issues into public attention and how can that attention be used to influence change?
2. After watching the video, engage students in a dialogue about the film using some or all of the following questions (include at least one writing prompt):
- At the beginning of the film Aitan said that it never occurred to him to let his position as a kid prevent him from affecting change. Do you think kids feel disempowered in our society? Why or why not?
- Why do you think Aitan used music as a way to inspire people?
- One of Aitan’s goals was to connect with kids around the world. Why do you think that’s important? How can we facilitate the growth of transnational relationships in our fight against global environmental issues?
- Aitan explains what the word advocate means to him. What does that term mean to you?
1. Have the students learn the song 100 Generations and teach it to younger students. (The musical score is available at the Kids Earth website here.)
2009 © Aitan Grossman
The air is getting warm,
My eyes are burning.
This is the biggest storm,
The tide is turning
I see the waving wheat,
I see the redwood tree,
They wither in the heat.
What will become of me?
All of the bread we eat,
All of our farming,
Will there be any meat?
The world is warming.
Our streams are full of tires,
Our trees are burning
In wild forest fires.
We must start learning now.
The sun shines through the clouds
And beams right on me.
I shall not put on shrouds
To weigh upon me.
Here comes the giant flood
And fifteen hurricanes.
I’ll open flower buds
With the fresh air and the rain.
Hawk you fly into the wild.
I am like a little child.
You and I, we share the same elation.
River run down from heaven’s hill,
Ever flow I know you will,
Lasting for 100 generations.
Di nonyane di afofa
Fatshe leno la rona
This land of ours (first line of the Botswana National Anthem)
Taiwan is my beautiful home.
The Jade Mountain proudly looks at the green land beneath her.
The ocean scenery around Kenting is as beautiful as a picture.
I wish this dreamlike wonderland would remain with us forever.
Amazonas para el mundo es
el pulmón vegetal
la esperanza de un futuro ideal
The Amazon is for the world
Its vegetal lung
The hope of an ideal future
2. Have the students write their own poems, songs, and raps about the environment. Have the class perform them for their peers and parents.
3. Schools all over the United States are teaching the students to do “mindfulness” activities to help them reduce stress and get in touch with their feelings and creative ideas. Have the students do this mindfulness activity. Lead them through the following guided relaxation script to help them get still and relaxed. Then ask them to quietly reflect on the quote at the end. Follow the activity with a free-writing exercise. Make sure the students keep silent the whole time. Prompt them to ask questions beforehand by explaining the whole activity first.
“Begin by getting comfortable in your chair. You can sit up straight, which will help you focus, or slouch if you think that will help you feel more relaxed. Now, close your eyes or focus your gaze on one spot in the room.
Start to relax your body, beginning with your feet. Allow a feeling of relaxation to fill your feet...feeling heavy, loose, and relaxed. Relax your ankles...lower legs...and knees.
Allow the relaxation to continue, relaxing your upper legs. Let the muscles of your legs completely let go...feeling very heavy and relaxed, but your mind is still awake and sharp.
You are letting go of your body, but not your attention. So as you relax your hips and pelvis, and all the surrounding muscles and feel your stomach and lower back relaxing, your mind remains aware of itself.
If thoughts flow into your mind, do not be bothered. These are just thoughts. Return to the relaxation of your body-now creeping into your chest, back, and sides...feeling very relaxed...
Let your hands relax, all the way from your fingertips to your wrists. Feel your lower arms relaxing...letting go. Relax your elbows and upper arms...loose.
Relax your shoulders, feeling them lowering slightly...finding a comfortable, relaxed position...free from tension...
Allow the muscles of your neck to relax...letting go...and relax your face and head.
Feel your entire body relaxing even more deeply...becoming completely relaxed, loose, while your mind remains aware, and awake so that you can now turn your attention inward...even more deeply inside...to find your self.
Take a moment to feel your whole relaxed body. Find some stillness.
Let your thoughts just be, observe, don’t resist.
Now, focus your attention on the quote at the end of the film by Julia Butterfly Hill about making a difference:
(Repeat the quote for them)
The question is not “Can you make a difference?” You already do make a difference. It’s just a matter of what kind of a difference you want to make, during your life on this planet.
Let this sink in. Find your stillness and consider what making a difference means.
What kind of difference do you want to make? I’ll let you reflect for a couple of minutes.
(Let students reflect. After one minute goes by, repeat the prompt: what kind of a difference do you want to make? Give them another minute).
Now that you’ve had a moment to reflect come back to your body. Start by wiggling your fingers, waking up your hands and arms…
Move your toes, allowing your feet and legs to wake up...
Feel your muscles reawakening...and your whole body filling with energy.
Open your eyes and sit quietly for a moment while you reorient to your surroundings...
When you are completely awake and alert, silently return to your desk and free-write for five minutes about making a difference."
After the students complete the mindfulness activity and free-writing activity encourage them to continue thinking about how they can make a difference for the rest of the day. Have them brainstorm action-based ways they can achieve this. The next day in class get the students to get into groups and share their ideas. In their groups have the students pick the idea they think might be best to implement in the school and then come back to share it with the rest of the class. Conclude the period by encouraging students to take the next steps to putting their ideas into motion and reminding them that they can affect the change the care about.