Humans Within Ecosystems and Our Home/Our Habitat  
An Integration of Science and Humanities through Environmental Education

Dr. Tina L. Hanlon

Dr. Carolyn Thomas


Tina Hanlon and Carolyn Thomas   

Environmental Education Display at the
Environmental Symposium at Ferrum College

Faculty Members
Dr. Carolyn Thomas Dr. Tina Hanlon
Ph.D., Virginia Polytechnic and State Univ. Ph.D., The Ohio State Univ.
Professor of Biology Associate Professor of English
Environmental Science Department English Department
Special Interests  

Water Quality

Children's Literature

Appalachian Literature

Environmental Education Project:

Dr. Tina Hanlon, Dr. Carolyn Thomas and other Ferrum College faculty members developed these courses as part of a national environmental education project. Ferrum was one of ten colleges selected to participate in the project sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges in 1994-98.  This project was a response to the nationwide call for the improvement of environmental education at all levels of learning, with a focus on integrating science and the humanities.  Ferrum College developed two new half-semester courses to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and awareness to form a basis for their future work as environmental educators and responsible citizens.  As interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary courses using innovative topics and pedagogy, these courses fulfill the Life Science Division and Ferrum College goals for the Science 2000 program.  Readings, class activities and student projects demonstrate the benefits of integrating science, the humanities, and the arts to educate children and the community about the environment.

Goals of Ferrum College's Science 141 and 143 Courses:

  • To develop environmental sensitivity in ways that students will recognize as being shareable with learners of all ages.
  • To recognize that we all are educators regarding the environment.
  • To understand that environmental education can be achieved by active and collaborative learning processes that explore ecological concepts such as habitats and homes, and change and succession in ecosystems.    
  • To develop awareness of the interconnectedness of life, through science, the humanities, and the arts.
  • To provide a foundation for lifelong learning and environmental responsibility.

See our notes on Team Teaching.

Humans within Ecosystems Syllabus, online at Second Nature Web Site (not available as of 6/10/02)

Course Project:  Integrating Ecological Principles and the Humanities to Improve Environmental Education,
(formerly online at Second Nature Web Site)

For recent syllabi by Carolyn Thomas, see Science 141 and Science 143. These courses are also now taught by Carolyn Thomas as part of the Appalachian Cluster of general education courses.


Three of Our Laboratories:

Garber Hall and Greenhouse (right)

Ferrum College Campus (lower right)

Blue Ridge Institute Farm Museum (below)

Literature and the Environment: Annotated Bibliography   

This is a list of selected resources developed for the CIC Environmental Education Project and Ferrum College course Science 141, Humans Within Ecosystems: An Integration of Science and Humanities through Environmental Education. The course used mainly children's literature to integrate science and the humanities. These are listed somewhat in order of priority, with the books that were most important in our course at the top.

Dr. Seuss. The Lorax. New York: Random House, 1971. One of the earliest and most popular picture book fantasies with  a modern ecological message. Colorful drawings, fantasy creatures, and amusing rhymes dramatize the transformation from a beautiful landscape inhabited by animals and birds, to the bleak ruins left by a greedy industrialist who destroyed all the resources with his factories.                         

Durell, Ann, Jean Craighead George, Katherine Paterson, eds. The Big Book for our Planet. New York: Dutton, 1993. Stories and poems on the environment by award-winning children's authors and illustrators. Profits from the book go to six environmental organizations.

Awiakta, Marilou. Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother's Wisdom. Golden, CO:  Fulcrum, 1993. A Cherokee/Appalachian writer and storyteller blends essays, poems, and ancient myth to instill appreciation for the earth and apply Native American philosophies to modern problems.

George, Jean Craighead. The Talking Earth. New York: Harper Trophy, 1983. One of George's novels for children in which a young protagonist learns to survive independently by adapting to the environment. A Seminole girl who is sent out to explore the Everglades alone and experience the ways of her ancestors finds she must listen to the land and animals to survive.

Walsh, Jill Paton. The Green Book. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1982. In this short science fiction novel for children, a group of families adapt to life on a distant planet with an unfamiliar environment. They learn that practical skills, children's adaptability, and stories are essential for survival.

Caduto, Michael  J. and Joseph BruchacKeepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children. Illus. John Kahionhes Fadden and Carol Wood. Golden, CO: Fulcrum. 1988. A collection of Native American stories, each accompanied by discussion, questions, and ecological activities for children ages 5 to 8 or 9 to 12. The activities focus on sensory awareness of Earth, understanding of Earth, caring for Earth, or caring for people. Ample background and guidelines for teachers are included. A wall map is available to accompany the book.

Cherry, Lynne. The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest. New York: Gulliver Green Book/Harcourt Brace, 1990. A picture book by a writer, illustrator and environmental activist. A community of animals and a native child speak to a man while he sleeps, convincing him of the interdependence of living things in the forest and the disadvantages of cutting down trees. Maps and some background on the Amazon Rain Forest are included. 

Van Allsburg, Chris.Just a Dream. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. A picture book fantasy in which a boy's dream teaches him the importance of preserving the environment and planting trees in his neighborhood.  

Madden, DonThe Wartville Wizard. New York: Aladdin/Macmillan, 1986. Comical picture book fantasy about convincing  townspeople to stop littering after an old man develops the magical power to make all their litter stick to their bodies. 

George, Jean Craighead. Who Really Killed Cock Robin? New York:  Harper Trophy, 1971. An eighth-grade boy solves the mystery of how complex ecological imbalances cause the death of the town's robins. George's other "ecological  mystery" novels for children include The Missing Gator of Gumbo Limbo and The Fire Bug Connections.  

George, Jean CraigheadOne Day in the Tropical Rain Forest. New York:  Harper Trophy, 1990. A illustrated chapter book for early readers in which a native boy and a  scientist find a rare butterfly and stop the destruction of the forest. George's other books in this series include One Day in the Woods, One Day in the Alpine Tundra, One Day in the Prairie, One Day in the Desert.  

Peet, BillThe Wump World. Boston;  Houghton Mifflin, 1970. A picture book in which interplanetary polluters (Pollutians) colonize and destroy the Wumps' beautiful natural world.  

Dunphy, Madeliene. Here is the Tropical Rain Forest. Illus. Michael Rothman. New York: Hyperion, 1994. A picture book with colorful paintings and brief, cumulative, and lyrical text showing the interdependence of life in the rain forest.  

Brown, Ruth. The World that Jack Built. New York:  Dutton, 1991. Picture book with paintings showing effects of pollution on landscape after a factory is built. 

Simon, SeymourEarth Words: A Dictionary of the Environment.  Illus.  Mark Kaplan. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. A colorfully illustrated explanation of environmental terms for children, from acid rain to wetland.

Mazer, Anne. The Salamander Room. Illus.  Steve Johnson. New York: Knopf/Dragonfly Books, 1991. A boy learns about the natural world when he imagines his room transformed into a salamander habitat.

Hanlon, Tina and Judy Teaford. "Never Too Old for Picture Books."  Virginia English Bulletin 46 (Fall 1996).  7-20. Article on using picture books with older readers from junior high to college in classes on writing, literature, and environmental  science.   

For copies of these and other bibliography entries contributed to Second Nature Web Site, search its Bibliography under Hanlon (not available as of 6/10/02).

See also bibliographies Nature and the Environment in Appalachian Literature and Picture Books and the Environment.

envr.JPG (46801 bytes) Artwork Created by Shauna Glover for project in Science 141, Humans Within Ecosystems

For details on the assignment, see Project page.

Thematic Unit Integrating Environmental Science, Literature and Art

This unit, in the general science course Humans within Ecosystems: An Integration of Science and Humanities through Environmental Education, uses picture books to introduce college students, including prospective educators, to methods for integrating environmental science with the humanities and arts. It provides college students with opportunities for developing and practicing activities that can be adapted for different age levels. Since the course focuses on succession and change, this unit emphasizes patterns and change as aspects of nature, art, language, and society.  

Some goals and objectives for this integration of Environmental Science and Humanities are

  • Exploring collaborative learning strategies that will reinforce ecological principles presented in lecture and reveal patterns of language and art in picture books and poems. 
  • Developing an awareness of how the human role within the ecosystem is manifested in selected literary and artistic works.  
  • Discovering new ways to compare forms and images from nature with artificial or human forms and images
  • Developing an awareness of the interconnectedness of life, through science, the humanities, and the arts; specifically, to show that patterns in literary and artistic works can reflect changes in nature and different points of view toward nature. 

Some of the books used in this project are in the bibliography above.

For details and additional bibliography, contact Tina Hanlon.

Elements to look for in picture books (for Humans Within Ecosystems or Our Home/Our Habitat):

  • Fiction or nonfiction?
  • Scientific information—in main text, or in sections before or after?
  • Explicit treatment of environmental issues
  • Optimistic or pessimistic views on environmental issues and human action?
  • Uses of fantasy vs. realism
  • Relationships between art and text
  • Needs/actions of humans vs. other organisms and natural environment
  • Human views of homes and habitats
  • Perspectives on change (historical, political, social or natural) in ecosystems, habitats, homes
  • Depiction of specific, real places, or fictional or generalized settings
  • Material on use of basic resources in ecosystems or habitats
  • Patterns in language and image, patterns in natural or human phenomena being depicted
  • "Recycling" of motifs in folktales and mythology
  • Different types of architecture, for humans or other animals

See also Nature and Ecology in Appalachian Literature,

Assignments and Study Guide on Contemporary American Picture Books,

General Guidelines for Teaching with Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, Fables, Ballads, and Other Short Works of Folklore,

and Annotated Bibliography of Appalachian Folktales in Children's Literature,

in AppLit: Resources for Readers and Teachers of Appalachian Literature.

Picture Books and the Environment

Bibliography: Adaptations of Traditional Literature in Ecological Children's Books

Background Resources on Environmental Literature for Teachers and Scholars

Ferrum College Home   |   E-mail Dr. Tina Hanlon