"The Lorax" and Our Environment - ED200 Final Curriculum Project Erin Flanagan and Isabel Gottlieb

 
"The Lorax" and Our Environment - ED200 Final Curriculum Project Erin Flanagan and Isabel Gottlieb
“The Lorax” and Our
   Environment
 ED200 Final Curriculum Project
   Erin Flanagan and Isabel Gottlieb

            Trinity College
             Spring 2006

                   1
Introduction

       When settlers first discovered the United States, it was mainly wilderness, yet

today the environment is greatly changed. Our country is home to great cities like New

York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, yet with these cities comes pollution; buildings,

roadways, and noise dominate these areas, creating a much different environment than

what the settlers discovered when they first arrived. Our world is very different than

what it once was, and it is important to teach our children this fact. It is important that

children are aware of the positive and negative changes that the United States has

experienced, especially those relating to the environment. With this knowledge, children

will develop ideas about what can be done to help save the environment.

                                          Context

       The Lorax and Our Environment is a unit designed to be taught to fifth graders in

McDonough Elementary School. However, the unit can be easily modified to suit any

classroom in Connecticut or any other state. Ideally, the unit stretches over a period of

five days ending on April 22, which is Earth Day. Dr. Seuss’, “The Lorax” will be used

as a basis for relating the development of the United States to the environment. Through

the lessons and activities planned, students will develop an understanding of the

environment in a historical context, and will use the knowledge they have gathered as a

tool to develop an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

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Objectives

       The objectives for the unit were developed using Bloom’s Taxonomy, Gardner’s

Theory of Multiple Intelligences, as well as the Connecticut Framework for Science. Our

main objectives include the following:

   •   Students will practice their oral literary skills.

   •   Students will understand the relationship between the story of Dr. Seuss’, “The

       Lorax” and the development of America’s cities.

   •   Students will examine, compare, and contrast the natural environment and the

       urban environment.

   •   Students will use their artistic expression to demonstrate their understanding of

       the environment and to promote recycling in the community, while gaining a

       feeling of accomplishment.

   •   Students will put their knowledge gained over the week’s lessons into action by

       broadcasting their message throughout the local community.

       The Connecticut Framework for Science states that, “[Students will] recognize

and participate in scientific endeavors which are evidence-based and use inquiry skills

that lead to a greater understanding of the world.” By using “The Lorax,” students will

be given a mechanism to help them develop a deeper understanding of their world by

thinking critically, comparing, and contrasting their own environment to the story.

       Blooms’ Taxonomy addresses the many different levels of learning, including

knowledge, understanding, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, each of which

involve different levels of cognitive function. Throughout the unit, students will be asked

to recognize, discuss, explain, identify, illustrate, apply, write, compare and contrast,

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examine, design, construct, and argue, exhibiting cognitive behavior from each of the six

learning levels.

       We realize that different students may be stronger in different subject areas than

others, and using Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, developed our objectives

with the idea that all student’s will be able involve themselves in the unit in some way.

The environmental basis of the unit will involve those who are strong in the sciences, and

have a high naturalist intelligence, group reading and individual writing will allow those

with a strong linguistic intelligence to succeed in the course, and the art project at the end

of the unit will allow those student’s with a strong spatial intelligence to involve

themselves in the project. By addressing different intelligences, we hope that all of the

students will take something out of the unit, whether it is through group discussion,

artistic expression, or any other aspect of the unit.

                                          Activities

       In the week prior to the Lorax and Our Environment unit, a guest speaker will

come into the class from the Connecticut Environmental Protection Agency to talk about

pollutants and environmental protection in and around Hartford. This lecture will focus on

the major sources and ramifications of pollution in Hartford, trash and recycling policies in

Hartford, and the Hartford park system. The ideas and knowledge of the guest speaker will

be further discussed the next week during the environmental unit.

Day 1: Reading and Discussing the Lorax

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To begin the unit, the 5th grade class will gather in a circle while the teacher reads

the beginning of Dr. Seuss’, “The Lorax,” aloud (Appendix A). Each student will then

take turns reading until the entire story has been read aloud. After the story has been

read, the teacher will lead a class discussion to help the children form comparisons

between American history and “The Lorax.”

       The teacher should first, on a large sheet of paper, make a list of all of the

elements of the story from children’s suggestions (the Once-ler, the Lorax, swomee-

swans, truffula trees, thneed factories, etc), and include their descriptions. Over the

course of the discussion, real-life parallels should be made matching components of our

society with part of the parts of the story of “The Lorax.” A map packet will be

distributed, allowing students to visualize the development of the United States

(Appendix B). The teacher will then lead a discussion using the leading questions

provided in Appendix C. The questions should stir conversation and cause students to

draw elementary parallels between the story of “The Lorax” and the development of

American cities, from pre-colonial to modern times.

       On the first night, students will be instructed to write a brief, one or two

paragraph reflection describing their understanding of American history in the context of

“The Lorax.” The reflection should provide the teacher insight to the connections that

students made during the day’s discussion.

Day 2: Field Trip to the Connecticut Audubon and Neighborhood Walk

       On the second day of the unit, the class will go on a field trip to the Connecticut

Audubon Society in either Glastonbury or Fairfield. While there, the students will go on

a guided nature hike on which they will gain an appreciation of a portion of

                                              5
Connecticut’s ecosystem. They will learn about the local river environment, and the

birds which inhabit it. The children should use the Audubon Society as a template in

their minds for what America may have been like before it was subject to massive human

development.

       When the class returns from the Audubon, the teacher then guide the children on a

walk around the neighborhood surrounding the school. Students will be encouraged to

make observations that compare and contrast what they see in the urban environment to

that which they were exposed to on the field trip. In particular, children will be asked to

note the prevalence of cement, buildings, cars, and pollutants that were not so obvious in

the natural environment of the Audubon. The children will also be asked to think about

the aspects of each environment that remind them of “The Lorax.”

       For the second evening’s homework, children will be broken into three groups.

Each group will be assigned a different topic, all of which relate to a certain aspect of the

guest speaker’s lecture from the previous week; pollutants, parks, and trash & recycling

will be the group topics, as they were the three topics discussed during the lecture. Each

student will be instructed to recall any information he or she can, use parental resources,

or personal experience, to make a list of bullet points of any information pertaining to

their topic. For example, a student researching pollutants can report basic sources of

pollution such as “cars”, or can go into as much detail as naming an industry that causes

pollution, and explaining how that industry pollutes the environment.

Day 3: Discussion about Pollution and Recycling

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At the beginning of class, the students will break up into their assigned homework

groups and share their information with each other. After they have had approximately

fifteen minutes to do so, the class will come together so that each group may report what

they feel are the most important pieces of information to share with the class. Once

everything has been reported, the class will discuss how all of the things they found are

connected, and how they affect their lives. The emphasis of this discussion should be to

get children to see how pollution affects their parks, and how trash and recycling efforts

help to counter the effects of pollution.

       After the discussion, students will break up into new groups composed of children

from each homework group; this cooperative learning method, based on Robert Slavin’s

Jigsaw II technique, will allow students to pool their mental resources and brainstorm

ways for them to help make a difference in their community’s environment (Slavin,

1995). Students will be encouraged to come up with a list of their ideas, which the

teacher can later post on the wall of the classroom; this list will serve as a reminder of

what they could each be doing to help the earth.

       To end the day’s lesson, the class will come back together so the teacher may

introduce the activities for the last two days of class. The fourth and fifth lessons will be

spent painting recycling bins and distributing them around the community. The students

will be allowed to choose a partner with whom they would like to design and pain a bin.

For homework, they will be expected to prepare a draft of what they would like to paint

on their recycling bins. Although this assignment is relatively open-ended, the designs

that the students create are expected to reflect what they have learned or talked about

                                              7
over the course of the past three days, such as a scene from “The Lorax,” the city, the

park, or a picture with messages about the environment or recycling.

Day 4: Painting Recycling Bins

        The fourth day of the unit will provide an opportunity for the children to express

themselves artistically, while bringing together everything they have learned. This

activity will also allow some children to shine, who may not generally excel in classroom

discussion.

        The children are expected to come to class with a rough draft of what they plan to

paint on their recycling bins. Once class begins, the pairs of students will have their

designs approved by the teacher so that they may set up a workspace with newspaper,

paints, paintbrushes, water, paper towels and a recycling bin. When they have set up

their workspace, the children will be allowed to work together to paint their recycling

bins.

        The painting of recycling bins is a way for students to creatively express

everything that they have learned in the unit in a way that is interesting and meaningful to

them. When they are finished, each pair of students will make a small presentation to the

rest of the class explaining what they painted on their bins and why. This will allow

everybody to share with one another, the lessons that meant the most to them. This

activity will also be a valuable experience for the children because it will allow them to

play an active role in helping save the environment.

                                             8
Day 5: Distributing Recycling Bins Throughout the Community

       The final day of the unit will tie everything that the children did and learned about

history, the environment, art, and themselves, and will allow them to share their

knowledge and ideas with the community that they live in. The class will take a walk

around the community to deliver the recycling bins to several pre-selected locations, and

each student pair will decide where they would like to place their bin; some of these

locations include the front office, family resource center, and the library of the school, as

well as small stores and community centers nearby, such as the Trinity Hill Health

Center. These are all areas of the community to which children are frequently exposed,

providing students with a constant reminder of their efforts. At each drop spot, the

students who made the bin will briefly explain the purpose of the project to the authority

of the location, furthering their understanding of the unit.

       Upon return, the class will hold one final wrap up discussion. This discussion is

intended to be very open-ended, and each student should be encouraged to express what

they learned about history, science, art, and the community, how it applies to Earth Day,

and how they are making a difference in the world. Once everybody has spoken at least

once and the discussion has died down, the class will be assigned one final reflection

paper. This paper should be one to two pages long, handwritten. It should be a reflection

of the whole week, and should highlight what each student thinks are the most important

things he or she gained from the week’s lessons.

                                              9
Evaluation

        Throughout the unit, students will be evaluated in a variety of ways to ensure that

student’s individual strengths are being taken into consideration. Evaluation will rely

heavily on student’s participation in class discussions, as well as on the completion of

nightly homework assignments. A major part of this unit is class discussion, and

contributions to discussion will not be taken lightly; participation in group discussions is

extremely important for the acquisition of knowledge and the formation of ideas for both

the student, as well as his or her classmates. It is crucial that students complete the

assigned homework, as they are often used for group discussion the following day.

Differing ideas and viewpoints are necessary for the continuation of group discussion,

and without the assignments, students will have a more difficult time conveying their

ideas to the rest of the class.

        The reflection paper assigned on the first day of the unit will allow students to

express their initial ideas of the relationship between relationship between “The Lorax”

and their environment. The paragraphs are not expected to be long, but we hope to see

reflections on the class discussion, as well as further development of any other ideas that

may not have been discussed in class.

        The homework assignment for the second day of class is for students to think

back to the previous week’s guest lecture, and report information regarding pollutants,

trash and recycling, or Connecticut parks, depending on the student’s group. Completion

of this homework assignment is extremely important for the subsequent class period, and

is imperative that students put notable effort into their work. The information either be

researched, or recalled from the previous week, as long as students come to class

                                             10
prepared to discuss what they have learned. Since the children will be using their

homework as an aid in small group discussions, they will be held individually

accountable by their classmates, as well as by the teacher (Slavin, 1995). Again, students

will be evaluated on their efforts to participate, as well as the completion of the

assignment.

       On the last day of the unit, students will be asked to write another reflection

paper, however, this time it is expected to be between one and two pages in length.

Students may use any ideas from their first reflection paragraph, as well other ideas

developed over the course of the week. The purpose of this paper is to allow the teacher

to see the progression of student’s ideas, from the beginning of the unit, to the end.

Students should draw from class discussions, their trip to the Connecticut Audubon

Society, the guest speaker from the previous week, as well as any of their own ideas.

Students will also be asked to think of solutions for today’s environmental problems,

including efforts that they may already be taking. The paper will be evaluated based on

its content, as well as its overall clarity and structure. This is the one time during the unit

that students are evaluated based factors other than participation and effort, and is

therefore very important that students put a large amount of effort into the assignment.

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References

Bloom’s Taxonomy
      .

Educators Guide; Exploring the environment in and around your school. Connecticut
      Audubon Society. 3 May, 2006.
      .

Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences
      .

Map Page. 2005. Montgomery County Public Schools. 8 May, 2006.
      .

Political Map of the United States. World Sites Atlas. 29 April, 2006.
        .

Rouillard. Carte Generalle de la Nouvelle France. 1692. Alabama Maps.
       .

Seuss, Dr. The Lorax. 13 April, 2006.
       .

Slavin, Robert. Cooperative Learning: Theory, Research, Practice, 2nd edition. (Boston:
        Allyn and Bacon, 1995).

The Connecticut Framework K-12 Curricular Goals and Standards. 1998. State of
      Connecticut Department of Education. 13 April, 2006.
      .

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Appendix

Appendix A

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Appendix B: United States Maps

                                 19
Present-Day Physical Map of the United States

                                         20
United States Map as of 1692

                               21
Natural Vegetation Map of the United States

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Appendix C:

               ‘The Lorax” and America Guideline Discussion Questions:

1) What are some of the components in the story of “The Lorax?” Define them as well.

2) Do you see any similarities between the things we just wrote down and things from
your own community?

3) Do you know what America was like before it was developed by settlers hundreds of
years ago?

(Distribute maps)

4) What do you think happened to America’s environment when factories started to be
built?

5) What effect do you think this has on the world we live in today?

6) How does all this relate to the story of “The Lorax?”

7) How does all this relate to your lives?

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