Environmental Issues and Literature

There are many reasons why you might consider using literature to spark interest, provide information, and led to inquiry connected to environmental issues.  Having a set of books connected to a topic like endangered animals, water conservation, environmental stewardship… can broaden the scope of investigations into these topics.

So what ideas are you working with? In what ways do the books you have chosen benefit such explorations?


14 Responses to “Environmental Issues and Literature”

  1. 1 Danielle Pedri July 22, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    The ideas I was working with for my environmental book lesson were all based around reduce, reuse, and recycle. Recycling Day was a great nonfiction text that pulls readers in and is engaging. It was about a group of volunteers who worked together in their community to clean an empty lot that had been littered with garbage and attracted rats. The volunteers turned the empty lot into a garden and then the insects were able to return. By cleaning up the lot, the volunteers learned about recycling and tips on going green. An idea I researched and thought would be wonderful for an entire school to be a part of was Terracycle. Students would recycle their juice pouches into boxes at lunch and our school would receive 2 cents for each pouch. Students would keep track of our monthly earnings on a bar graph and present our results each month on our morning announcements. The school could work towards one common goal. This would be a great opportunity for students to get involved in learning about different items that can be recycled, that certain items can be reused and made into something else, and that anyone can make a difference when it comes keeping our Earth clean. Other books I would use would be Hey, That’s not Trash and Miss. Fox’s Class Goes Green . With both of these stories I would have students generate their own ideas with partners. We would think, pair, share on different ways we can reduce, reuse, and recycle in our everyday lives. Students could work together on advertising ways to recycle. I think the students would really enjoy making posters because it teaches them that they are in charge of their own actions when it comes to recycling and helping conserve energy. This is a way for them to see that they can make a difference.
    Through the nonfiction texts, fictional texts, and explorations students get to understand real world situations and how we all can better help our world. Students gain facts from the nonfiction text while the fictional text is an enjoyable read aloud that eases them into the subject matter. Working with the books I presented on today and others I have in my classroom library students can gain a different perspective when it comes to recycling and see the effects of our actions.

    • 2 Kimberly Eder July 23, 2015 at 8:37 pm


      I really enjoyed listening to your findings on the program Terracycle; it

      seems like such a great idea not only to get the children involved but also

      what a wonderful thing to do for our environment. So many students have

      juice boxes at lunch I think they would be very motivated to help with that

      project. I might even have to research it and suggest our school get


      • 3 hiimkatiexo May 11, 2016 at 2:06 am

        Danielle, your lesson sounds like a lot of fun. It’s research based, fun and extremely helpful. I love the idea. I think that it’s great to use nonfiction literature to explain environmental stewardship and also connect the activity to real world information. I would love to use this project in my future classroom.

    • 4 Robert Sorrells July 25, 2015 at 6:34 pm

      I also liked your lesson and I think it would be one that would get even our younger students engaged in environmental issues. I can see my first graders becoming competitive in collecting the most juice boxes.

    • 5 Stephanie Dunnock July 31, 2015 at 2:05 pm

      I really enjoyed how your lesson ideas can be adapted for older students as well. I like that the trade books were of different reading levels but I could see even the easier books being used with fourth grades. They all really made an important lesson stand out and keep the students engaged.

  2. 6 Danielle Pedri July 23, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Thanks Kimberly! Here is the link. They actually have a lot of other things you can collect other than juice pouches. It’s very interesting!

  3. 7 Kimberly Eder July 23, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    The environmental concept that I worked with was planting; for a different

    approach I looked at two different types of gardens. The gardens that I

    considered to be wild and the other was purposeful gardens. I looked at

    three books; Planting the Wild Garden, Who will Plant a Tree and Up We

    Grow! I decided to start with an investigation around the school where I

    would point out to students the wild gardens the ones that were not intended

    to grow where they grew. I would ask questions of the students as we were

    walking around the school leading them to start seeing the difference

    between the two types of planting. Back inside the classroom we would put

    the two terms on chart paper and brainstorm words to put under each

    heading. I would then read through the book Who Will Plant a Tree? after

    that we would as a whole class discuss what could be added to our two

    columns of planting. Who Will Plant a Tree? mainly deals with, wild gardens,

    the idea of animals moving seeds by accident and how different plants grow

    from those seeds. I would then break the class into 4 groups giving each

    group a different book having to do with planting. Two of the books would be

    Planting the Wild Garden and Up we Grow! each of these hits on 1 if not

    both of the different types of gardens. After, each group would share about

    their book, which garden type was in their book and then as a class we

    would come up with a definition for the two garden types. The students

    would then individually respond in writing to the question; Do we need both

    wild and purposeful gardens in our environment? This activity will give

    students an awareness and better understanding of the plants around them

    and their importance.

    • 8 Danielle Pedri July 23, 2015 at 11:21 pm

      Kimberly, I enjoyed your presentation on wild vs. purposeful gardens. I never thought of teaching gardening that way or teaching students about wild gardens. You had some great ideas and maybe someday I can use them.

    • 9 Robert Sorrells July 25, 2015 at 6:39 pm

      I think a great extension to this lesson would be to actually create a “purposeful” garden. Have the students talk about the characteristics of this type of garden, plan out where they would put it and what types of plants they would put in it. I remember making a man made marsh in the front of my elementary school when we learned about them. It is still there to this day. That was one experience that I hope to keep with me, and one I would love to create with my students.

      • 10 Kimberly Eder July 28, 2015 at 1:29 am

        I love your idea that would be so neat for the students to actually create a purposeful garden. I can’t stop thinking about the fun the students would have and what they would gain from responsibility, to knowledge of gardening and how proud they would feel with their accomplishment. I can see how an activity like this, like your marsh, would last forever in the students mind.

    • 11 Stephanie Dunnock July 31, 2015 at 2:08 pm

      Kimberly- Your ideas are great and make me think of all the gardens here on the Eastern Shore. Our students could really relate to your lesson and see many examples in their lives. It would be cool to maybe even do a bus tour and see different gardens around the area on a large scale, like a farm or a wild life refuge.

  4. 12 Robert Sorrells July 25, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    The environmental topic that I focused on was water conservation. The first book that I worked with was “All the Water in the World,” a children’s picture book that spoke about the importance and uses of water, and how everything on the Earth uses it. I think this would be a great starter for a conversation on water and what the students believe is the importance of having water. Having the students think about how do we use water everyday, where does it come from, is water infinite, and is there enough of it around the world? These are key questions and ideas to think about when talking about water conservation. The next book that I worked with was “One Well; the story of water on the Earth.” This book also talked about why water is important, how all living things use water, and how the Earth is made up mostly of water. It goes into details and different figures with actual measurements on how water is used by all living things. It then continues to talk about water shortages around the world and how we pollute our water sources. I would want to have my students talk about how water is used by not just humans, but animals and plants. I would want them to think about how we should share the water in the world. Then demonstrate the amount of water that is actually usable and how it is divided around the world. I would want to focus on the idea that there are countries that do not have constant access to a water supply and how we are very lucky and wasteful with ours. The third book that I had was “Hope Springs” a story of a boy in Kenya that goes to get water from the local well, but is turned away because he is not from around the area. So he decides to dig his own well and allow everyone around to take from his well. I think this book could be used to not only hit home the idea that there are people around the world that don’t have access to water, but also to inspire my students to take action. It shows that age is not an issue when trying to change the world. I would want to encourage my students to research ways to conserve water and create posters that teach people on responsible ways to use water. I would also want my students to research ways to help people in different countries gain access to a water supply. I see these activities as a service learning lesson that will help them become more active in their communities, and see that they can make a difference.

  5. 13 Stephanie Dunnock July 29, 2015 at 9:51 am

    Environmental issues are very complex and sometimes very abstract for children. Textbooks don’t always provide enough information on the topics and students don’t always see the repercussions of unsound environmental issues. Using literature to connect to environmental topics allows children to experience problems and be a part of a solution that other fictional or nonfictional characters may encounter. Books like Wild Wings allow students to be a part of saving the ospreys and Olivia’s Birds- Saving the Gulf not only provides information but lets the reader live vicariously through Olivia’s actions. These books teach children a lot about being activist and that age doesn’t matter when it comes to making a different in the environment.
    Stories like The Wolves are Back provide students with a lot of facts about ecosystems in a very relaxed way. The pictures are beautiful which allow the reader to understand the importance of the wolves in their ecosystem at the national park because without them the food web is altered and populations of other species are also effected. These books lead themselves to geographical studies, writing lessons, research and debates. Through these trade books, students learn about endangered species as well as food chains and food webs in a very real, personal, and mature way.

  6. 14 Megan Muir April 28, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Environmental issues should be discussed more often in the school’s classrooms. Especially students from the Eastern Shore of Maryland and learning about pollution and the aquatic life around the bay should be discussed in the classroom in order for the students to get a grasp on issues that are taking place outside of the classroom but locally as well. The content can be detailed and overwhelming to introduce to students at certain ages but with the content of recycling and taking care of their community can make a big difference.

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