The Earth Book teaches Do Not Destroy and Repair The World
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The Earth Book teaches Do Not Destroy and Repair The World

Book Title: The Earth Book

Author: Todd Parr

Illustrator: Todd Parr

Jewish Value: Do Not Destroy

Additional value:

     Repair the World

Book Summary:

The Earth Book discusses the important subject of conserving Earth’s natural resources. Using his signature colorful illustrations and whimsical storytelling, Todd Parr empowers children and adults with ways they can help save the Earth by “going green”: “I take care of the Earth because I know I can do little things every day to make a BIG difference.” The book offers a practical list of simple activities easily understood by young children, followed by clear explanations of how those simple things can have a large impact on the health of our planet. Appropriately, this book is printed on recycled materials.

Enduring Understandings:

  • We are commanded to care for those who can’t protect themselves, so we are responsible for taking care of the Earth and helping to save the home of all living things. 
  • We can help protect and repair the Earth when we reduce, reuse, and recycle. 
  • Everyone is responsible for caring for the Earth. 
  • When we add each person’s small acts together, they amount to a big difference.

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

Lesson Plan Components

For the educatorJewish Thought, Text, and Traditionsmore

The mitzvah of ba’al tashchit—the commandment not to destroy or waste items from the natural world— is one of the most commonly mentioned mitzvot in contemporary Jewish social action circles. The source text for this mitzvah comes from the Book of Deuteronomy 20:19: “When you besiege a city for a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. You may eat from them, but you must not cut them down. Are trees of the field human, to withdraw before you into the besieged city? Only trees that you know do not yield food may be destroyed; you may cut them down for constructing siege works against the city that is waging war on you, until it has been reduced.”

The rabbis assert that we are not allowed to needlessly destroy the natural environment in a time of war, when resources are scarce and the primary focus is on ending the battle as quickly as possible. Therefore, we should be even more aware of ba’al tashchit when we are not at war and can make informed choices. For example, if we have to build a home (or, more realistic for most people, redecorating a home), we have the time to make an informed choice about which materials we choose to use, how we can reuse and recycle what trash we produce, etc.

Hence, we have the mitzvah of ba’al tashchit developed from a war-time prohibition against needless waste to a prohibition that covers every aspect of our lives. In almost everything we do, we can have an effect on the natural world. This mitzvah asks us to consider ways in which we can refrain from being wasteful. Today, Jews involve themselves with ecology by recycling, conserving energy, and helping to preserve the environment.

From Our Texts 
“The purpose of the mitzvah of ba’al tashchit is to teach us to love that which is good and worthwhile and to cling to it, so that good becomes a part of us and so that we will avoid all that is evil and destructive. This is the way of the righteous and those who improve society, who love peace and rejoice in the good in people and bring them close to the Torah, that nothing, not even a grain of mustard, should be lost to the world, that they should regret any loss or destruction that they see, and if possible they will prevent any destruction that they can.” -Sefer Ha-chinuch, Mitzvah 529 

“When G-d created Adam, He took him around the trees of the Garden of Eden, and He said to him, ‘Look at My works! How beautiful and praiseworthy they are. Everything that I have created, I created for you. Take care not to damage and destroy My world, for if you damage it, there is no one to repair it after you.’” -Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13

“One generation goes and another generation comes; but the Earth remains forever.”

-Ecclesiastes 1:4

Questions for Reflection

  1. Is enjoying something that requires resources necessarily wasting? 
  2. Do you think we should only partake in the simplest things, or should we be allowed to indulge in things that require more resources? Explain. 
  3. What are some non-wasteful ways to meet our needs and wants? 
  4. How can you implement the value of ba’al tashchit within the classroom?

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Create your own “Go Green Responsibility chart.” Each child is assigned a “green” responsibility for the week, for example, turning off the lights, managing the class recycling, monitoring water usage, watering the plants, or collecting the compost. Periodically, remind students how they are helping to promote the Jewish value ba’al tashchit.

Materials and resourcesmore


  • Copy of The Earth Book 
  • After the Story: recycle bins with craft materials to decorate each


Sharing The Storymore

Introducing The story

Set up an environmentally wasteful classroom (for example, running water, trash on the floor, parched plants, too many lights turned on, etc.). Invite students to a meeting area and ask them, “What’s wrong in our classroom?” Take the students on a tour and help them make a list of the problems they find. Follow up by asking them what the solutions are.

Prepare to read the story by assessing prior knowledge concerning the 3 R’s— reduce, reuse, and recycle. Discuss questions such as, “What is recycling?” and “Why is recycling important?” Play the video featuring the “The 3 R’s” song by Jack Johnson. Encourage students to join in the chorus, “You’ve got to learn to reduce, reuse, recycle!”

  • Show the front cover of The Earth Book and discuss what the students see (a drawing of the Earth with a heart in the center). Explain that the book helps us learn how adults and children can help save the Earth by “going green.” Give examples of “going green,” such as riding a bicycle to work instead of driving a car, using the same cloth bags over and over again when buying groceries, turning the water off while we brush our teeth, etc. What additional ways can students think of to “go green,” as we reduce, reuse, and recycle?

Reading The Story

Read the story aloud, stopping when appropriate to explore illustrations, address comments, clarify, predict, and guide students’ understanding of the story and the values do not destroy—ba’al tashchit and to repair the worldtikkun olam.

Questions might include:

  • Do you shut off the water when you brush your teeth?
  • Do you turn off the lights when you leave a room?
  • Do you reuse different materials (for example, using the back of a used piece of drawing paper to draw another picture)?
  • Do you recycle glass, metals, and paper?
Reinforce students’ understanding of why it is important to reduce, reuse, and recycle with the following “I wonder …” starters:
  • I wonder why is it important to use both sides of paper.
  • I wonder what paper is made of.
  • I wonder what types of animals use trees for homes.
  • I wonder why is it important to turn the water off when brushing my teeth.
  • I wonder who needs clean drinking water.

After The Story

Revisit some of the illustrations and ask students, “How do you think this boy or girl felt when they were being environmentally responsible rather than wasteful?”

Use the poster at the end of the book as a review of the environmental concepts. Add additional “go green” ideas, and place the poster in the classroom as a reminder for the students to be conscious of the Jewish value do not destroy—ba’al tashchit. Assign various “green activities” to different students each week. (See Jewish Every Day.)

Bring in recycle bins and use student art to decorate them. Discuss the types of materials that go into each bin and model the way in which students can recycle. Sort recycled materials and have students count the number of items in each bin. To extend learning, discuss which bin contains the most and least.


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Compost Project

Create a classroom compost bin or pot. Each day invite students to recycle their leftover lunch and snack food, which over time, will become compost to fertilize a school garden. For information on creating your own classroom compost bin, visit

Imagination Station
Science, Creative Play 
Give students the opportunity to use and reuse items from the recycle bins they create. For example, let them imagine all the various things they can make from a plastic water bottle. Encourage them to create “works of art” using materials collected in some of the recycle bins. Display them proudly as wonderful examples of ba’al tashchit—do not destroy.

Biodegradable Jars
In a baby food or small glass jar, add moist soil, small pieces of orange peel, banana peel, plastic, and Styrofoam. Ask students to predict which will “disappear,” or biodegrade. Write their predictions down, and with students, observe the jars for a few weeks and discuss what they see happening. After a few weeks, when the students notice that the Styrofoam and plastic still remain, revisit the importance of recycling and reusing these materials.

Music Connectionsmore

List of All Songs

Tikkun Olam

by Miss Emily Aronoff Teck


This is a “zipper” song, which means that the lyrics can change each time the song is shared to reflect the ideas of the people who are singing. Help students brainstorm the ways that they want to help fix the world before sharing the song so that they are ready when it is their turn to sing.


Tikkun olam, tikkun olam, tikkun oh-la-la-la-lam (x 2)
Tikkun olam, means we’re gonna fix the world

To fix the world, _____(fill in child’s name) is gonna ______(child finishes the line) (x4)


Additional Music Connections

Evidence of Learningmore

Students will be able to verbalize the importance of protecting the Earth and suggest ways they can help by using the 3 R’s—reduce, reuse, recycle. Students can articulate and / or illustrate ways not to waste resources.

Observe how students independently follow the “go green” ideas.


“Green” arts and crafts
Send home a request for parents to donate reusable materials for arts-and-crafts projects and classroom storage (for example, plastic baby wipe bins, baby food jars, tissue boxes, etc.).

The Recycling Tree
Invite each family to participate in a recycling tree. Send home a leaf template. Ask each family to create a leaf out of recycled materials, such as a cereal box or newspaper, and on the leaf describe their family’s commitment to conservation or helping the Earth (for example, to drive less, ride bikes more, carpool, plant a garden, conserve water or electricity, and other ways to reduce, reuse, recycle, etc.). Once you’ve collected all of the leaves, have the students help to create a class tree.

Encourage families to care for a particular piece of the Earth. This can be done by planting a garden, watering plants, or organizing a local beach or park clean-up.

Create an at -home Go Green Chart
Send home a chart for parents to use to motivate children and acknowledge their efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle. In the left column are suggested ways that children can help protect the Earth. Here is one example

  • Encourage parents to add additional ideas. Suggest that parents put a star, happy face stickers, or earth stickers on the chart when their children demonstrate a green action. A variety of stickers can be purchased at
  • Have students share what they did during the week at home to show how they have “gone green.”

literature connectionsmore

TitleAuthorIllustratorBook Summary
Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth Mary McKenna SiddalsAshley WolffThis recipe-style book guides readers through the compost ingredients, from A to Z, in our everyday lives.
Our Class Is Going Green Kindergarten Students of the Oak Park Elementary School Children write and illustrate their ideas for “going green.”
We Planted A Tree Diane MuldrewBob StaakeThis multicultural story shares how two families, in different parts of the world, each planted a tree, and how the trees gave and gave to the world around them.
Something from Nothing* Phoebe Gilman A modern adaptation of this favorite Jewish folktale describes how the blanket grandfather had made for young Joseph is transformed over the years into a jacket, a button, and, ultimately, a story. The grandfather demonstrates creative and meaningful recycling.
* PJ library Books
Lesson Contributors

Deborah Zucker Fried and Stephanie Levitz Englander B’nai Torah Congregation, Boca Raton, Florida Raquel Ruiz Temple Beth Am, Jupiter, Florida