Wednesday, September 21, 2011

We Speak for the Trees

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not!" - The Lorax

The Lorax, written by Dr. Seuss in 1971, focuses on environmentalism and the consequences of increasing industrialization.  Published the same year as the founding of green peace, this children’s story marks the beginning of the environmental movement.  Using colorful and animated characters, Seuss personifies big industry in an entrepreneur, the Once-ler, and the stereotypical environmentalist in the Lorax. The Lorax is a mysterious character who attempts to protect animals’ habitats from the Once-ler's destructive and greedy actions.  The message Seuss portrays about the detrimental effects of environmental apathy is one that resounds strongly still in today’s world and we think it is a great book to teach students of all ages about the power they have to make a difference in our world and our environment.

Learning Objectives:
  • Students will understand the symbolism of both main characters
  • Students will analyze the environmentalist theme of the story
  • Students will discuss parallels from the story to our own society
  • Students will understand the interconnectedness of elements of the natural environment
  • Students will search for potential solutions to the growing problems represented in the story

1.  Together, read the book aloud and give all students get a chance to read at least a page or two.
2.  Start class discussion with open ended questions such as:
a.  Was it fair for the Once-ler to destroy natural habitats for his business?
b.  Could the Once-ler have kept his business going without cutting down every Truffula Tree?
c.  What destruction of natural habitats have we seen in New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, and/or the rest of the country? Where does it happen?
d. How does the destruction of natural habitats affect humans?
3.  Transition into a class activity by dividing the class into groups.
4.  Give each group ten plastic cups and tell them to stack the cups in a pyramid shape.
5.  Next instruct each group to choose one cup from the bottom row and try to remove it without knocking any of the others down.  When the pyramid collapses tell them to try it again but choosing a different of the four bottom cups.

1.   Lead a class discussion based on the observation that removing one cup automatically affects the entire pyramid.  Prompt the class to find the connection between the pyramids’ dependence on every one of its cups, to an ecosystem, where every change in some way affects the whole ecosystem.  Discuss the effects of specific man made changes, big and small, to the environment as a whole.
2.   Divide the class into groups and assign each group a section of the story to act out for the class (e.g. the section describing the land before the Once-ler came, the scene where the Lorax appears in the story, when the different animals are forced to leave their homes).  At the end, have the class discuss possible ways the Once-ler could have continued his business without damaging the environment as much.

Follow-up: activities
1.  Students develop independent or small group service-learning projects in the community based on the themes of The Lorax. Examples of projects may include (but are not limited to) working to preserve and restore the natural environment of Louisiana's Gulf Coast, developing an advocacy campaign to put pressure on businesses to be environmentally friendly, teaching The Lorax to younger children at the Lower 9th Ward Street Library, and many, many more ideas.

    Check out The Lorax Project for more ideas of what you can do to help protect our environment.

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