sobre los árboles

Once I lived in a place with no trees.  No instrument for the breeze, no background green, no rest for the eyes, no branch to climb, no bark to float, no leaves to trace, no fruit to snitch, no tap on the window, no shadow on the wall, no slow growth to measure a life.  In our imaginations a tree can be a child’s companion, history’s witness or storyteller for those who know how to listen. Trees anchor a wide range of ecosystems and play both hero and victim in the current climate change drama.

So if you live in a place with trees–even one tree will do– they may be a good way for students to develop sustainability sense through close reading of nature.  By studying trees students can sharpen their Spanish language skills and strengthen their powers of observation while making scientific, literary, community, and cultural connections.

Openlands Escuela del Árbol

Escuela del Árbol is a program for grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12 developed by Openlands, a Chicago-based non-profit dedicated to protecting urban open spaces and promoting environmental appreciation and stewardship.  The attached PDF file, Tree_School_Spanish,  includes Spanish-language lesson plans for naming the parts and functions of trees, exploring contributions trees make to our lives and telling tree stories.  The worksheets, drawings and activities are perfect for Spanish language learners (level 2 and up) to acquire new vocabulary and practice reading, writing and speaking skills.  The plans can be used as a unit or individual activities can be pulled out to supplement other themes such as childhood, food and nutrition, dwellings and neighborhoods, the city, the country, agriculture and farming, story-telling, history or the environment.

El Nombre del Árbol.  What is a tree and how do you say its true name?  In English?  Spanish?  Latin?  Mayan?  Reforestamos México has a section on their web site dedicated to el especie de la semana that includes photographs and short descriptions of a variety of tree species.  A more technical and thorough list is available at UNAM’s Instituto de Biología árboles site.  Curricular connections:  Students can identify and label trees on your school campus or in their neighborhood using the languages spoken in your community.  They can pick an interesting tree and tell a story about it, write a letter to it or draw and describe its ecosystem, including its relationships to other plants, animals and people.  Advanced students can also benefit from the lists above when they come across a reference to an unfamiliar species of trees in literature.

Árboles y Literatura.  Trees have inspired many authors and poets.  Here are just a few ideas:  Intermediate students can read all or part of El árbol de los sueños.   Written by Fernando Alonso and illustrated by Emilio Urberuaga, this children’s novel contains five imaginative short stories with trees as main characters.  The stories are told by a narrator determined to defend a fellow-writer who has been arrested for writing sobre los árboles. The chapters stand alone, however read the book cover-to-cover to enjoy the author’s joke at the end.

Another favorite is uruguayan Juana de Ibarbourou’s poem:

La Higuera

Porque es áspera y fea / porque todas sus ramas son grises, / yo le tengo piedad a la higuera.

En mi quinta hay cien árboles bellos, / ciruelos redondos, / limoneros rectos / y naranjos de brotes lustrosos.

En las primaveras, / todos ellos se cubren de flores / en torno a la higuera.

Y la pobre parece tan triste / con sus gajos torcidos que nunca / de apretados capullos se viste…

Por eso,/ cada vez que yo paso a su lado, / digo, procurando / hacer dulce y alegre mi acento:/ Es la higuera el más bello / de los árboles todos del huerto.

Si ella escucha, / si comprende el idioma en que hablo, / ¡qué dulzura tan honda hará nido / en su alma sensible de árbol!

Y tal vez, a la noche, / cuando el viento abanique su copa, / embriagada de gozo le cuente:

¡Hoy a mí me dijeron hermosa!

More poems plus activities for analysis are available on this site under the heading Poesía: Árboles y Versos.  For simpler poems try aulauruguay.  All this, of course, just scratches the surface!

About sustainabilityandspanish

Spanish teacher and accidental environmentalist.
This entry was posted in A Sense of Place, Environment & Ecology, Environmental Resources in Spanish and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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