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Environmental Literature

Environmental Literature


Environmental Literature in the Classroom
One of our Connecticut high schools asked for suggestions about fiction readings to use in their science and English classes. Their goal was to have student read and analize fiction literature from a sustainability/environmental lens. These are the suggestions that were presented when a number of resource people joined that discussion. If you have favorites that you would like to add to this list, please contact Laurel Kohl.
It was suggested that a particular reading could be examined with the sustainability/enviromental lens as either a "bad" example of these principles, or as a "changing times" discussion. It was also suggested that students evaluate younger-level fictional stories as both "quality" fiction and their presentation of environmental themes. Many libraries (both school and town) have books that could be checked out to present a large choice for students to analyse.
Some sources for lists of books at all reading levels:




Suggestions that educators have made and their comments (click here for a downloadable document) :
  • For years I used Ray Bradbury's short story "A Sound of Thunder" at the beginning of an interdisciplinary high school Environmental Studies course. The story could be used in middle school as well, I think.
  • Eco-Fiction by John Stadler is excellent, which includes "Sound of Thunder" Available on Amazon for about $2/copy. Also, "Where the Wildbooks Are- a field guide to ecofiction" by Jim Dwyer has high reviews.

  • I have a few- California Blue, by David Klass, Hoot and Flush by Karl Hiaasen, and I heard that Jean Craighead George (of Julie of the Wolves fame) has written a series of environmental mysteries- but I have not read those- although I have read the other books I mentioned with students. I second the recommendation for Seedfolks- might seem for a younger audience, but I used it with middle schoolers and think it can be read and learned from at any level.
  • Jean Craighead George's My Side of the Mountain was one of my first favorites. Other possible books by her include There's an Owl in My Shower
  • I suggest Window and Home, both books by Jeannie Baker. And also: Rah Rah Radishes about locally grown food.
  • I suggest Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.
  • There are many. Below is a list of common books and for younger ages than 10th grade. But, if they are to read them and analyze the messages it would translate as an older student activity. The Great Kapok Tree; The Tree Farmer; Compost Stew young readers; Everybody's Somebody's Lunch; A Drop Around the World- really good tie in with water crisis issues
  • For their age group actual reading level- The Hunger Games- currently out and popular has a great sustainability slant and a past popular book was HOOT.
  • We have long been advocates of raising academic achievement and building student engagement in real-world issues from an early age by the use of stories (a favorite of ours is Dr. Suess' The Lorax). At our CELF Summer Institute for Sustainability Education (in NY andMA) teachers learn how sustainability issues can beintroduced in practically every book theymay already bediscussing in theirclassroom, ranging from K through 12 and across subjects. For example, 9/10 English teachers skillfully re-wrote their units onF. Scott Fitzgerald'sThe Great Gatsby and Charles Dicken's Great Expectations to examine and critique economic modelsand social issues of the 20th and 21st centuries, as well other issues related to the environment and sustainability. It simply requires looking at teaching and learning through a "sustainability lens."
  • The Man Who Planted Trees is a good one. I used it in a 9th grade courseon sustainability to explore the relationship between place/ environmentand our mental and spiritual health, as well as the role that theindividual can play in making change and restoring the environment.
  • If you go to a broader sustainability focus, I used several short storiesfrom an anthology of international women's authors writing on women'sexperiences called "Fragments of a Lost Diary." From this I've used: "The Memorial Service on the Mountain";"Wedding Dance"; "A Truly Married Woman"; "A Woman's Life" These all deal much more with social equity and women's issues, which areall part of sustainability, but they don't directly address environmentalissues or lend themselves to an environmental lens. I used these in aclass that focused on the Millennium Development Goals and sustainability.

  • There's a new anthology called 'I'm with the Bears', edited by Mark Martin - mainly chapters from novels already published.
  • 'In-Flight Entertainment' by Helen Simpson is a recent collection of short stories on the theme of climate change denial.
  • I've used all of these at both the HS & MS levels: Bradbury, Ray - The Veldt; Asimov, Isaac - A Sound of Thunder; Bradbury, Ray - It's such a beautiful day; Chopin, Kate The Storm ; Crane, Stephen The Open Boat; Dollarhide, Lewis The Gift; Jewett, Sarah Orne A White Heron; Kaplan, David Michael Doe Season; London, Jack To Build a Fireplace ; Murphy, Pat In the Abode of the Snows ; Oates, Joyce Carol The Buck ; O'Connor, Flannery The Turkey Quammen Walking Out ; Wolff, Tobias - Powder
  • I've read Jean Craighead George's Eco Mystery series and they are great eco fiction for kids (but not as wonderful as My Side of the Mountain).I would put them at grade 4through middle school. Her The Talking Earth is excellent for middle school and up.Some other books fromthe middle school &up level that chapters could be selected from include Will Hobbs books such as the Maze, or Jackie's Wild Seattle, Riding the Flume by Patricia Curtis Pfitsch, Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen, Flashpoint by Sneed B. Collard III andSilent Spillbills by Tor Seidler, which happens to be set in Connecticut. As far as shorter works,I'd add Holling Clancy. Holling's books such as Tree in the Trail.For collections of short stories, I can only think of Michael Caduto & Joseph Bruchac's Keepers of the Earth series.