Ideas from Mattie’s mom

Posted on: May 23rd, 2012 by jeni No Comments


For educators, parents, and youth leaders



On this page, Mattie’s mom shares ideas

for using one or more of

Mattie’s poems or essays that may fit

with a timely or seasonal theme. 



More ideas can be found on the

“Messages from Mama Peace” page



The autumn season symbolizes change — new grades and school classes, new sports and after school activities, colors changing from green to yellows and reds and more on the trees. Change involves learning and acclimating to new environments and people and routines. Change involves shifting from what was, to what will be, and tending to the matter of what is in each moment or day. Change can be exciting, and change can also be stressful.


Even though change can be challenging, change is a necessary part of life and growing older. Parents and teachers can help children, teens, and students cope with changes, and even focus on and celebrate positive aspects of change. Encourage discussions about changes in our world — changes in what we witness in different seasons, and also changes in how we view and understand our world as we grow older.


Share these poems with your students, children, or teens –

“Leaf for a Day” (p.13)

“On Being Thankful” (p.23)

by Mattie J.T. Stepanek

In Heartsongs” (Hyperion, 2002)




Discussion suggestions for “Leaf for A Day”

  • How does Mattie describe being a leaf for a day?
  • What types of words and imagery does he use?
  • The leaf changes from hanging on a tree, to floating on a breeze, to being on the ground with other leaves. How are these changes like ones you experience as you are growing older?
  • Ask students to share how they might feel with if they were “a leaf for a day.”
  • Ask students to share how they think the tree and the wind and the other leaves might feel.


Discussion suggestions for “On Being Thankful”

  • What are the things Mattie was hoping would be a part of his day and thank you prayers?
  • What do you think he saw or heard or did instead of the things he listed that did not happen?
  • Ask students to share a time when they something they hoped for did not happen.
  • Depending on their ages, ask students to think about what they were doing one year, five years, or ten years ago right about this time (autumn). How are things the same for them today? How are things different? What do they miss? What can they choose to celebrate and be thankful for?


Activity Suggestions: 

  • Draw a picture, shape a poem, or share a thought about changes — in the seasons or on the world.
  • Create an illustration for one of the two poems shared.
  • Ask students to split into two groups. Each group will plan how to ‘act out’ one of the two poems. Encourage them to use dramatic gestures, to add music or rhythm, or to draw background scenery. Each group then serves as an enthusiastic audience for the other group as they perform.
  • Send feedback and photos from this activity to and your contribution may be posted on our Teacher Tips page!




The end of the school year is quickly approaching! Here is fun poem to share with your students –

“Not Quite What I Expected”

by Mattie J.T. Stepanek

page 47 — Celebrate Through Heartsongs


Mattie wrote this poem on the last day of school when he was 7 years old.

Read the poem aloud, or have a student read it aloud to the class.


Discussion Suggestion: 

  • What was Mattie expecting?
  • What was he NOT expecting?
  • Ask students to share a time when they were expecting one thing to happen, and something very different happened.
  • Ask the students how they feel on the last day of school. Ask them how they think teachers feel.


Activity Suggestion: 

  • Have students interview teachers and staff about the last day of school.
  • Create a graph showing the findings (e.g., how many will be happy, sad, doing cartwheels, etc…)
  • Have students create another graph with student responses to the same questions.
  • How are the students and the teachers/staff the same and different?
  • Encourage students to write a poem or paragraph about what they are expecting, or not, for the last day of school.
  • Post the graphs and student creativity on a hallway bulletin board near the entrance to the school, so that parents and other staff members and students can enjoy this activity as well.
  • Send feedback and photos from this activity to and your contribution may be posted on our Teacher Tips page!




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November Spotlight

May 5 at Botanero

Cinco de Mayo Partnership Fiesta - FREE ENTRY - All Day Happy Hour & food specials, Music by DJ Genius, ZamDance performances -- join us for a fundraising party that celebrates peace and acceptance! Read more...

June 2 at Dawson's

Mosaics & Music: Make Peace the News -- join us for wine & apps, music & mosaic unveiling, conversation & celebration at a fundraising gathering to promote peace! Early Bird Tickets $25 ($30 at the door). Read more...

June 21 and 22

Celebrating Mattie’s life & legacy – 15-year anniversary Mass on June 22 (11 am) at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Derwood, MD, followed by a reception hosted by Mattie's Guild - ALL ARE WELCOME. Read more...

July 13 in King Farm

2019 Peace Day Celebration – join us for a FREE street fair (1-5 pm), all day food & drink specials (1-8 pm), and a Happy Hour Dance Party (5-8 pm) – arts, crafts, music, performers, cake, moon bounce… Read more...

- Mattie J.T. Stepanek