A grasp of “place,” in my experience, is important for appreciating the impacts of climate change. When I was studying in Quito, Ecuador, I would occasionally catch a glimpse to the south of the incredible ice cone of the Andean stratovolcano, Cotopaxi. Quiteños would tell me that the ice was visibly receding every year; that when they were children, Cotopaxi looked very different. Climate change became real to me when I saw that it was rapidly transforming the ancient and resolute Andes.
Today I want to focus on a second Earth Day resource that came out of the Portland Area Rethinking Schools Earth in Crisis Curriculum Project. “Paradise Lost: Introducing Students to Climate Change through Story,” uses poetry to incorporate place into lessons on climate change.
The lessons revolve around the short PBS Now documentary, “Paradise Lost,” which tours the South Pacific island of Kiribati (pronounced KIRR-EE-BAS). The island is literally disappearing as sea levels rise. People live on the island: “I love my land. If it’s going to disappear, I will go with my land,” says one islander.
Others will leave their homes. The U.N. has estimated that there will be 250 million “climate refugees” in the next 50 years. These people will all lose their “place,” and the Paradise Lost lesson can share this topic with students while providing writing practice, knowledge about climate change, and an introduction to found poetry.
Here are all of the links that you will need to implement the lesson plan:
“Paradise Lost” Lesson Description by Brady Bennon: This is the Rethinking Schools resource that describes the entire process.
The First Morning of Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire: This is an excerpt of the reading used in Bennon’s lesson to introduce students to place.
PBS Now Documentary: Paradise Lost: This is the link to watch the referenced 25 minute documentary demonstrating the effects of climate change on the island nation of Kiribati.
Creative Writing Now: Found Poetry: Bennon’s lesson uses found poetry to help students think about place. Creative Writing Now has an excellent description and how-to guide for found poetry.
As always, I hope this is useful.