What’s the use of maths and grammar if you don’t have oxygen?

May 16, 2023

By Tony Rinaudo


“What’s the use of Maths and grammar if you don’t have oxygen?”

Wise words from one of the world’s youngest FMNR followers and advocates – Frederik from Hofgeismar, Germany.

Frederik is a practical thinker and is already making sketches and plans for a Primary school Primer on trees. He showed me his maths and grammar primers and was convinced that the series was incomplete without an edition on trees for children. He reasoned that maths and grammar would be useless to us if we have no oxygen and therefore children must learn about the importance of trees.

Here are Frederik thoughtful responses to some of my questions –

When did you first become interested in trees and forests?

When mom told me about FMNR [four years ago]. But I have been interested in plants ever since I saw my grandmother work in the garden for the first time. I have helped her since I could walk.

What do trees mean for you (or why are you so interested in trees)

That they “produce air”, that they “produce oxygen”. That I can climb them. When it is hot, I stand in between a group of trees, and I feel fresh.

How did you learn about FMNR?

My mom told me. She knows Tony and told me about him and his invention [after a little discussion, he says: discovery].

What would you like to say to the adult world about the importance of trees?

I think you are doing wrong when you cut down trees or burn forests. It is thanks to trees that we can breathe! We cannot live without trees, we would have been dead for a long time: our body would have dried out and we would have suffocated. Please see to it that no forest burns and no tree is destroyed in vain.

Instead, enjoy the shade of the trees!

Seeing this insight and conviction at such a young age reminded me of how upset I was as a child at the destruction of the native bushland where I grew up in Australia and what a life changing impact books had made on me. As I’ve travelled around the world I’ve visited many schools and met thousands of children. Children are much more attuned to the importance of the environment than most adults and when they are given the information they need and learn a few basic skills, they become passionate actors and activists affecting positive change in their families and communities.

Environmental degradation affects children more than we can imagine – psychologically and physically. A schoolboy in Senegal said ‘if our parents had kept destroying the environment at the rate at which they had been, when I grow up, I would not be able to have children of my own because I would not be able to feed them!’ Children understand more about the importance of healthy, functioning environments than we give them credit for and they suffer emotionally because of the destruction they see. Children should be enjoying school and playing with their friends and not be worried about the future. And, children are physically affected by environmental destruction – loss of soil fertility, drought, flood, insect attacks on crops and the subsequent physical harm, hunger and displacement impacting families that can follow are all exacerbated by environmental degradation and human induced climate change.

I met Frederik in Kassel where I was invited by Dr. Ellen Christoforatou to participate in a workshop for professors, teacher educators and other multiplier persons to develop teaching material together with teachers, teacher students and pupils. The purpose of the workshop was to produce a variety of teaching materials for different school subjects, including biology, maths, politics, history, religious education and foreign languages – drawing on lessons learnt from the FMNR story! Materials produced will be used at schools (primary and secondary), kindergarten and teacher education institutions to highlight and teach various themes of sustainable development education. How good is that!? My wish is that this will become reality and other countries will follow Germany’s lead.