On April 26 to 28, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., the elementary kids from the environmental club Roots and Shoots performed a play called “The Great Kapok Tree”. Children from different grades, teachers, and a few parents came to watch. It was organized by Mrs. Reynolds and Ms. Marjon, based on a children’s book by Lynne Cherry. Through its meaningful words and colorful illustrations, the book emphasizes the importance of conserving rainforests, especially Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, which was losing more and more trees. The plot is that a woodcutter goes into the forest and falls asleep beside a kapok tree due to exhaustion from chopping it. Various animals who depend on the tree then desperately try to stop him from cutting down the tree, explaining to him in his sleep about its importance to them as well as to the world. When the man wakes up, he prepares to continue his chopping, but remembers what the animals had told him, then drops his axe and leaves the forest. Working toward the same goal of helping to prevent deforestation, the children had roles as the animals. The kids put a lot of effort into this play, performing it many times in the morning for three days.
Vanna from grade 3 who explained part of the plot to me commented, “The play was good! It was awesome.” With his role as a macaw, he told the man, “I have flown over the rainforest and have seen what happened. Only ruin remain.”
Third grader Katie agreed, “The play was amazing. It was so fun and really crazy with all the different animals from the wild.” Katie played a jaguar who asked the man, “If you cut down the tree, where will I find my dinner?” for its prey lived around the tree.
Ben, who is also a third grader, played a sloth who asked the man, “if you cut down the tree, where will you feast your eyes?” This means that with the tree gone, there will only be an empty stump and a lack of beauty in the surroundings, and sadly, nothing to look at.
Third grader Jacob, as a boa constrictor, hissed, “Señorsss, thisss isss the tree of miraclesss. It isss my home, where generationsss of my ancessstorsss have lived. Do not chopsss it down!!!”
Yu-Jin from the fourth grade played a porcupine who told the man that trees release oxygen for humans to breathe, so without trees, there would be less oxygen for us.
Ian from the fourth grade said that her favorite part was when the sloth reasoned that there wouldn’t be anything to feast your eyes upon with trees cut down. I agree that it would be very sad if what used to be a flourishing forest becomes a bleak and dismal area surrounded with black factories or just more and more buildings.
The rest of the kids I interviewed shared a favorite part of the play, which was the meaningful ending when the man chooses not to cut the tree. It truly is beautiful when we choose to protect the environment instead of harming it without thinking about the consequences. Kudos to Roots and Shoots!