Integrating Ecological Principles and the Humanities to
Improve Environmental Education
developed in 1996.
This web page created June 2002.)
General Guidelines for
- Your project topic and date of oral report must be
approved no later than Nov. 6.
- The written report and oral report must be presented no
later than Dec. 9 at 2 p.m.
- A conference with one of the professors before your oral
report is recommended, to review plans for your class
presentation. Come in as often as you like to consult on
progress on your project.
- Your oral report time will be restricted to 10 minutes
per person. (Be sure to plan carefully so that you cover
your topic within the time limit, rather than being cut
- The project must integrate principles of
environmental science with resources or methods from at
least one area of the humanities or arts.
- Any pertinent format or media may be used in the oral
reports: give an overview of the work you did on your
project and/or use handouts, blackboard, recordings,
videotape, overhead projector, etc. Be sure to arrange in
advance for any equipment or photocopying you may need.
- The audience for your project is this class. Feel free to
bring in guests; engage the class in discussion or
debate; or ask us to pretend we are a special kind of
audience, such as a first grade class. The class will be
asked to offer comments and questions after your report.
- You may suggest readings to the class that would help us
prepare for your oral report ahead of time, but do not
assume that we have done extra reading on your topic or
that we will want to hear lengthy summaries of books the
class has not read.
- The project grade (25% of course grade) will be based on
your submission of one of two types of report: (1) If you
project involves mainly reading and book or library
research, you may turn in an essay with at least eight
pages of discussion. (2) If you are submitting an
original story or poem or play, or producing something in
another medium (music, art, puppets, performance, etc.),
the grade will be based on your original creation and a
report of about three pages describing your project. (Use
the guidelines for lab reports to describe your methods,
results, and discussion of what you produced.) With
either type of report, you must attach a written list of
sources used for your project (including any people you
consulted). If you have any questions about how to write
and document a formal report, ask the professors before
the report is due.
Topic Suggestions for
- These are all general ideas, and you will need to develop
your own specific focus.
- You may also propose a topic not covered on this list.
- Develop a lesson plan for using literature or art to
teach an audience (any age group you choose) something
about the environment.
- Discuss various work(s) by, background on, or essays by a
writer or illustrator we are studying, or one not on the
scheduled readings for the class. Either report on an
author or illustrator who deals directly with the
environment, or discuss parallels you see between ways of
viewing or studying the environment and ways of reading,
writing, or creating or understanding art.
- Create an artwork that reflects an idea or feeling about
the environment and present it to the class. See sample
of student artwork at http://www2.ferrum.edu/thanlon/ecology/courses.htm.
- Compare book(s) about nature or the environment for
children with adult book(s) that have parallel themes.
How is the same issue handled differently for children
- Report on some type of music that reflects ideas or
feelings about the environment, or develop a lesson plan
or musical program to present ideas about the environment
to students or an audience.
- Write your own original story or poem(s) about the
- Write a play or skit or make a video that relates to
environmental issues, or work on performing a play or
skit or puppet show or some other kind of performance
involving an environmental issue.
- Report on a specific environmental issue as it has been
reported in the mass media, or the way it has been
handled (or mishandled or not handled, perhaps) by a
state or national government (e.g., news articles on
recent weather and global warming), or censorship of
- Develop or demonstrate an interactive game or experience
that could be used to teach a science lesson (e.g., an
activity in which participants become the parts of a
- Examine a specific literary or artistic technique or
theme or pattern used in several books or poems or
articles and relevant to studying the environment.
Examples: books that use questions and answers, true and
false ideas, conflicts or contrasts between adults and
children, fantasy vs. reality, dream visions, imaginary
experiences as a nonhuman creature or thing, optical
illusions, visual puzzles or hidden images, cumulative
effects in rhymes and tales, puns or other word play,
before-and-after images, alphabet or counting books,
patterns of repetition, pop-up books.
- Focus on attitudes toward the environment reflected in
the traditions of a particular national or regional
culture, such as a Native American culture.
- Compare the concept of change in ecology and literature,
and analyze the recycling of motifs by
comparing variants of a folk motif or myth as found in
different cultures. There are many, many variations on
Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, the
girl vs. the wolf, the young giant-killer, the dragon
slayer, the creation of the earth and people, the Flood,
the forbidden door or room, the clever wife or daughter,
the toy that becomes real, animal trickster
- Discuss and/or demonstrate storytelling techniques or
other methods of oral interpretation or leading
discussions with children, or adults, with a focus on an
- Report on a controversy about adaptations of traditional
material in a book for children (such as Brother
Eagle, Sister Sky by Susan Jeffers), or debates
about how much realism children should be exposed to and
whether children should be protected from harsh realities
about social issues.
- Report on how and where childrens books about
science are reviewed or guides to selecting
childrens books about science.
- Report on a film, TV program, audio recording, video, or
computer program that relates to the environment. This
could involve comparing a work of literature with a film
or cartoon version; discussing the pros and cons of using
different media to teach about the environment; analyzing
the historical accuracy and attitudes conveyed in movie
such as Pocahontas, etc.
- Report on one or more science magazines for children or
adults (such as Ranger Rick or My Big
Backyard), or on coverage of environmental issues in
more general magazines.
- Report on modern retellings or revisions of traditional
literature that have some relevance to study of the
environment, such as modernized nursery rhymes, new
retellings of folk tales, and new types of fairy tales
(e.g., Dr. Hanlon has recent adaptations of The
Tortoise and the Hare and The Three Little
Pigs in picture books that focus on the environment
of the Southwest U. S.)
- Report on the use of satire to convey ideas about the
environment, in stories or poems or articles for children
or adults, or in cartoons or comic strips (such as Far
Side) or TV or radio shows.
- Investigate methods for developing a museum display and
create a display or bulletin board for our campus, with a
particular environmental theme.
- Report on ecocriticism or ecofeminism, new movements in
literary and cultural criticism.
- Compare an older work of literature or art with a more
recent one that contains a more contemporary view of the
environment. What does this comparison reveal about how
attitudes have changed (perhaps attitudes in a particular
culture or region or among a particular group)?
- Use textbooks, anthologies and teaching guides, their
bibliographies and subject indexes, lists of
award-winning books, reference books, or consultation
with professors and other experts to develop ideas for
topics and find other important resources not included in
the readings for this class. For example, the library and
Dr. Hanlon have copies of Keepers of the Earth:
Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for
Children by Caduto and Bruchac. Drs. Hanlon and
Thomas have copies of Eco-Inquiry, and Dr.
Thomas has materials from Project Learning Tree.
- See bibliographies Nature and the Environment in Appalachian
Literature and Picture Books about the Environment.
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