GBM Blog

Tales for Trees: Chilean storytellers spreading Wangari Maathai’s legacy.

February 8, 2013 - 12:30PM
Published by Amy Haworth Johns

Last week we were introduced to ‘Tales for Trees’, a wonderful local-level organisation sharing the stories and lessons of Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement in under-privileged schools across Lo Barnechea Municipality in Chile.

The ‘Tales for Trees’ team (L-R):Ananda Araya, Lula (Marie Louise Pagola), Juan Lucero, Jaime Vogel, Teresa Montes, Carmen Munoz, Lore Prehn, Monica Poullin and Ximena Ovalle.

After being inspired by the life of Professor Wangari Maathai the group was formed to pass on her message of conservation and sustainability to the younger generations.

The storytellers work in local schools running ‘Environmental Education Days’. Reading from ‘Wangari and the Tree of Peace’ and other similar tales, the organisation aims to introduce children to ideas of environmental protection in a unique and exciting way. Through telling stories and playing music the organisation not only encourages children to read more, but through the captivating story of Wangari’s life and legacy and planting of trees within their schools, they ignite a spark in their passion to protect trees.

“Wangari Maathai has been present in all our activities…that strong and generous spirit in connection with nature has arrived in the conscience of so many people”


Following every session, a ceremonial tree planting is held in respective school yards and attended by teachers and pupils alike. The incorporation of tree planting ceremonies brings a unique approach to involving children in environmental activities. The action of leaving the classroom and being encouraged to practice the lessons they have been taught has created a new generation of tree-enthusiasts:

Every time we talk about it they go mad trying to obtain a seed or little tree!”

A pupil at Colegio Southland gets involved in the planting of native Chilean species in his schools grounds.

Donated by the government owned Conaf (Corporación Nacional Forestal), the tree seedlings are currently planted only within the school grounds; however there are hopes for group planting in public areas.

Eugenia Penilla with pupils from Sn. Juan de Kronstadt school.

Following Professor Maathai’s example the seedlings are Peumos and Quillayes which are native species to Chile, as well as Canelo - a sacred Chilean species.

At a recent planting in at ‘Colegio Aleman Thomas Sankt Morus’ (hyperlink) the planting ceremony was accompanied by traditional Mapuche ceremonies and a talk on the importance of respecting and preserving the native flora.



 Children at Thomas Morus school plant a sacred Canelo tree accompanied by a traditional Mapuche ceremony.

Thanks to ‘Tales for Trees’ a new generation of children will grow to respect the environment around them.


The Tales for Trees team in Chile.