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Learning Activity

Community: Who Belongs?


Art Form Creative Dramatics
Multi-Disciplines Art, Language Arts, Science
grade levels 5-8
You will need dictionary, writing materials, art supplies
Time One to Two Hours


This activity explores the old human idea of Community, and suggests that we had better learn to expand our definition of “community.”

The word community comes from the word “Common,” which means “shared.” But usually we’re just talking about human beings, people.

Who do we share Earth with?
Who should we share Earth with?
What is in it for us?

The Community of Earth or Earth Household includes every living organism.
Each of us is a member of this immense community called the Biosphere. But it is hard to think that large.

For this activity, think of Community as your neighborhood, or your town, or your farm—wherever you live. This is a local community.

The Activity

Look up the word “community” in a dictionary. You will find something like this:
“a group of people living in one locality, having common interests, and subject to the same laws.”

Ask small groups to evaluate the definition by focusing on the following ideas:

People Only? This is the part of the definition that may need to be enlarged, to include all beings, plant and animal.

Common interests: Whether we are green or crawl or walk or fly or swim—all of us want to live, eat, breathe, and reproduce our kind.

Subject to the same laws?
We like to forget that we are subject to the Laws of Nature, as well as the laws of people. Human laws are necessary things, but in human laws very few of the other living beings of Earth have any rights—including the right to exist.

Discuss: Ask students to think about these questions:

• Who are the members of our own local community?
• How should each member of the community be treated?
• Who should be the advocate for the life forms which cannot speak to humans? Who will speak for them?

Membership Roster:

Have small groups of students list some nonhuman members of their local communities; have each group name members who live within a block of their homes.

See how long a list small groups can create in a timed period, say 5 to 10 minutes.
Who should be Included? Who should be Excluded?
Ask groups to consider including:

animals: mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, worms

• Squirrels? OK. Rats? butterflies? OK. mosquitoes?

green plants: trees, grasses, herbs, mosses

fungi: molds, mushrooms, etc.

siblings, brothers and sisters

• Groups may wish to include life-forms that don’t fit in these categories, such as one-celled animals (protozoa) and bacteria.

Make Art

Creative dramatics:
From the community inventories, students each role-play one of the listed living beings. Or some role-play excluded living beings.

• Begin with movement.
• Have each role-player find or make one “prop” or bit of natural material to wear or carry.
• Have role players defend to each other their right to live.


1) Have students act out a trial. A species is on trial. It must prove it has a right to exist.

• some role-play lawyers who are advocates for living beings on trial

• others role-play prosecuting attorneys and jury members.

• Lawyers for both sides plan by making lists of possible witnesses for and against.

• Several different kinds of beings must be represented on the witness list.

• During the trial, notice when more information fails to change a negative opinion.

2) Make a list of all species of plant & fungi and animal life (including humans and mosquitoes, mice and crows) in your own neighborhood, within a half mile of your home.

• From the list, pick one or two species that you want to exclude from your community.

• Find out what other life forms may depend on those species for their own needs.

• Research out what ecological “jobs” those species perform that benefit other members of the community.

• Create Journal entries about this. Create essays about this

Example: Research mosquitoes' place in the Tree of Life. Who needs them for food? Find out about mosquitoes in the food chain. Read about bats, birds, and fish. Find out the job that mosquitoes larvae have. What kinds of species would suffer and maybe die if mosquitoes were exterminated?

• Research other beings for whom you feel no welcoming.


Student Source Sheet Community—Who Belongs

We must try to live without causing unnecessary harm, not just to fellow humans but to all beings. We must try not to be stingy, or to exploit others. There will be enough pain in the world as it is.

— Gary Snyder, Poet


At the best of times, science and the law do not mix well.

— James Lovelock, scientist


The poison is the dose.
                                              — Paracelsus, medieval alchemist