Robin Wall Kimmerer

Cottonwood Students in Conversation with Bestselling Indigenous Author/Botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer

Robin Wall KimmererOur school recently had the incredible opportunity to host Braiding Sweetgrass author Robin Wall Kimmerer as part of our school-wide Cottonwood Reads! 2020 program. Students at all grade levels prepared for the virtual visit by exploring concepts from the book through reading, writing, discussing, drawing, painting, and listening.

1st-3rd Grade Students


Students from 1st-3rd grades learned the story of Skywoman and created art to illustrate key details. See this pre-recorded video for examples of student-created Skywoman art, as well as botany-inspired illustrations.


4th and 5th Grade Students


4th and 5th grade students related the theme of reciprocity to their study of watersheds and conservation. Below are artistic responses to quotes from the book:


If I receive a stream’s gift of pure water then I am responsible for returning a gift in kind.

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Water is alive. Water remembers our ancestors that came before us.

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We fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. -Carole Lindstrom, author of the children’s book We are Water Protectors

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Sixth Grade Students


Sixth grade students reflected on the importance of giving thanks to plants. One student wrote:

Why should we thank a plant? I think we should thank a plant just like you would thank a human. Like, let’s say your friend has some tomatoes and is gonna give you some, when you go and get the tomatoes you would thank them, right? So now let’s say you go out to your garden and you have some juicy ripe tomatoes that are ready to pick, when you go and pick them why not thank them for giving you tomatoes? You would thank a friend, but would you even consider thanking the plant? NO you wouldn’t, because it’s not a human, it’s just a little (or big) plant sitting there, giving you food. It doesn’t talk, it doesn’t walk, and it doesn’t drive a car around and visit you, so you don’t even stop to thank it.

          I think you should thank a plant because a plant is where most of your food comes from, apples come from plants, bananas come from plants, even peanuts and raisins come from plants! Plants provide most of the nutrients that you need, so the next time you go and pick an apple, or a tomato, even a flower I want you to stop, and thank it.


7th and 8th Grade Students


7th and 8th grade students considered how the act of gratitude can change our relationship to things, leading us to potentially create less waste. They also explored the idea of animacy in language (referring to a tree to “she” instead of “it,” for example) and how this shift can transform our relationship with the earth. Examples of students reflections:


~“I think that we would learn more if we treated nature as animate instead of inanimate.”


~“I think treating something as if it is animate helps us connect to the land and feel more like it is a sentient being that has feelings and that we should be more thoughtful.”


The Event


On the day of the student event, several kindergarten through 3rd graders presented their work and questions to Dr. Kimmerer through the prerecorded video above. This was followed by a live panel of 4th-8th grade students who had the opportunity to ask questions to Dr. Kimmerer directly. Students who watched the live webinar from home wrote in their questions, many of which were graciously answered by Dr. Kimmerer as well. Also viewing the event were students and educators from around the region, including students from the Title VI (Indian, Hawaiian Native, and Alaska Native Education) programs at Beaverton and Hillsboro school districts, and members of the Native American Youth and Family Center.



Braiding SweetgrassWe are beyond grateful for this unique experience and extend our gratitude to our students and families who helped to make it happen. We look forward to ongoing conversation about the transformative ideas from Braiding Sweetgrass, both inside and outside of the classroom. Click here to view the November 17, 2020 evening presentation from Dr. Kimmerer, on the theme of “Decolonizing Education.”


We wish to express great thanks to the Gray Family Foundation for supporting this program and our work to bring Indigenous perspective to our school. A tremendous
“thank you” as well to our close partners in this event, The Confluence Project and Friends of Tryon Creek.




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