Fifth Grade Performance {Wangari's Trees of Peace} |

Fifth Grade Performance {Wangari's Trees of Peace}

This past fall, my fifth graders performed a program based on the book, "Wangari's Trees of Peace," by Jeanette Winter (click the picture to view the book on Amazon.)

The book is a really inspiring true story about a girl from Kenya who plants trees to replenish ones which had been cut down. It's a great story about perseverance and courage!

Today, I'm blogging with a summary of songs and dances I used for the program, as well as scenery ideas. 

Ideas for a Fifth Grade Program

I divided all of the text in the book into one or two sentences, with 26 or so narrators reading lines and music and dances interspersed throughout. 

Before we started the story, we sang the song "Twiangia," which is a welcome song from Kenya. This can be found in the book below, which is an AMAZING resource! It includes many songs, social and cultural context, and a wonderful DVD in which the author teaches the songs to your students! The DVD also includes field recordings and performances of each song...WELL worth the money! Click the picture below to see it on West Music.

After the students sang "Twiangia," I had three narrators come up, and read until the words, "maize from the rich soil." After that, two of my five classes did the "Kenyan Harvest Dance," which can also be found in the book above.

One more narrator comes up and reads the next part of the story. After "study in America," students sing "America the Beautiful" with piano accompaniment. (I actually used a recording of piano on CD so I could be conducting the students, but you could also play piano.) You could also do a different patriotic song here.

One more narrator comes up. After he/she reads "Kenya home," students sing "Step by Step," which can also be found in Kenya Sing and Dance. I had one class perform all of the motions and do the dance.

Two more narrators come up. After one of them reads "Where are the birds?" I had students sing "Little Swallow," first in unison, then with a vocal ostinato (ddd s, dddd/ Little swallow, fly to your nest.) My friend Amy Abbott writes about the song in this blog post; she included the music and game.

Four more narrators come up. After "row after row of tiny trees," I had one class perform Ensemble #1 from World Music Drumming. If you have several tubanos and/or djembes, this is a really great resource to have! Click below to see it on West Music.

At this point I split up the next lines in the book, from "Next, Wangari convinces..." to "put her in jail" between nine narrators. When the women plant trees, I had several students add leaves to trees which I had taped onto the walls on either side of the risers. Here is an example of one of the trees before leaves were put on it (buy the tree here):

After "put her in jail," I had students sing "Banuwa" (since the words mean "don't cry, pretty girl, don't cry.") You can find the music for "Banuwa" here at Beth's Music Notes.

One narrator comes up and says, "Still, she stands tall." Then I had all students say, "Right is right, even if you are alone." More narrators spoke until "maize grow again in the rich, red earth." When more women plant trees, I have more students come up to another tree and put their leaves on the tree. Then, students sang "Grinding Corn," first in unison, then in a round. You can find the music at Amy's blog here.

Two more narrators come up. After "brought back to Africa," I had students sing "Take time in life," which can also be found in "World Music Drumming." I had one class perform the instrumental accompaniment, and I chose two students from that class to sing the solos.

Of course, you could change the songs however you want; the idea is to choose songs and dances whose lyrics and motions match what is going on in the story.

The fifth graders really enjoyed this performance, and I was really happy with what they did musically, from singing, to dancing, to playing instruments! Hopefully I've explained everything so that you could recreate it or adapt it for your own students.

If you're looking for more programs that are accessible and easy to use with your students, check these out:



 You can also read about another fifth grade performance, based on "On the Day You Were Born," here.

Which programs have worked for you? Let me know, and feel free to send me any questions. Good luck, and have fun!


  1. Wonderful post, Aileen! I actually had an amazing opportunity to talk with Tim Gregory (who wrote Kenya Sings) last year! While I was researching my hand clapping book I "bumped" into someone who knew him and put us in touch. I talked with him on the phone for a long while and he was so interesting and so incredibly passionate about music and children! An incredible resource! Thanks for the great post!
    Aimee @

  2. Great ideas here! I've never put on a program based on a book but the way you break it down makes it seem so accessible and fun. And thank you for the reminder about Tim Gregory's book; a colleague of mine recommend it to me a few years ago and I was recently trying to remember the name of it! Perfect timing!