Wangari’s Trees of Peace

Reflections on a Performance

EarthQuaker Issue 95

Advices and Queries 19 asks us how we share our deepest beliefs with children and young people, while leaving them free to develop as the spirit of God may lead them. How do we share insights with them and learn from them? Recent Quaker Outreach developed a performance piece retelling the story of Wangari’s Trees of Peace, inspired by Jeanette Winter’s children’s book.[1] This required a collaborative approach based on mutual respect between teachers, musicians, and primary school children to identify the main issues of the story and to explore their significance for us today.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace tells the story of Wangari Maathai’s response to deforestation in her homeland of Kenya and her work with local women to establish the Green Belt Movement in Africa. The performance piece was created from January to September 2023 and presented at the Scottish Parliament on 21st September 2023 (International Peace Day) by children in Primary 6 from Oakgrove Primary School in Glasgow. Their performance was in partnership with a Quaker musician/storyteller, the children’s class teacher, and young musicians from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The journey of making this performance challenged the children to enter and re-enter the story, to re-enact it, to become at one with it. They really took ownership of the story, demonstrating their passion about the issues they were exploring.

The ensemble performance aimed to demonstrate the power of story and music to reinforce the children’s understanding of world events; the importance of living adventurously; and the potential impact of acts of courage, carried out together, to achieve lasting peace and climate justice. It also highlighted the importance of ensuring that children’s voices are heard, recognising their ability to contribute effectively to the debate on world peace and climate justice.

Values underpinning the event reflected the children’s right to take part in cultural and creative activities; to share freely with others what they learn, think and feel; to live peacefully; and to protect the environment.[2] Further to this, the project embraced Sustainable Development Goal 16: “To promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.”[3] It emphasised Wangari Maathai’s message to never give up hope, which is so important in our work for peace and climate justice in the world today. The project also celebrated the challenge she made in her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004: “We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and, in this process, to heal our own – indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder.”

The performance was a most uplifting experience that moved many of the MSPs and invited guests to tears. Reflections received from the audience bear witness to its impact. They said “I felt very moved and blessed to be there… What a wonder to see the children pulling off such an extraordinary feat, and to produce something so powerful…” Testament indeed to the children’s ability to use the tools of music and drama to tell challenging stories, to highlight key messages, and to call for peace and climate justice in our time.  

Mary Troup


[1] Winter, J. 2008. Wangari’s Trees of Peace. New York: Clarion

[2] See and