Your Complete Earth Day Teaching Kit

Mackenzie Carro

We have put together a fantastic teaching kit for you and your students to use this Earth Day (April 22). The kit includes guiding questions, additional resources, and an extension activity to use after students read two texts in the April issue of Scope: a short informational article called “When Mosquitoes Were Killers in America,” about the fight against malaria, and a play called The Poison Sky, about Rachel Carson's crusade against the mass spraying of the pesticide DDT.


Guiding Questions

Post these questions in your classroom for students to refer to as they explore the resources below.

  1. What did Rachel Carson help the American public understand about nature?
  2. How did Carson's work impact our relationship with the environment?
  3. How can we protect nature?
  4. Why was DDT used widely?
  5. How much control should the government have over private property?


6 Fantastic Resources to Explore


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

1. Silent Spring excerpt
Have students read the first chapter of Silent Spring, titled "A Fable of Tomorrow." Ask: What is a fable? Why might Carson have chosen to begin her book this way?



Alfred Eisenstaedt/Getty Images

2. Silent Spring review
As a class, read this New York Times book review of Silent Spring. Ask students what the article reveals about how the public reacted to the ideas presented in Silent Spring.



CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

3. Rachel Carson interview (video)
As a class, watch this clip of an interview with Rachel Carson. Ask students what point Carson is making about human impact on the environment.



lfred Eisenstaedt/Getty Images

4. American Experience documentary about Rachel Carson
Watch the film as a class. As students watch, they should write down three new and significant things that they learn about Rachel Carson. When the film ends, have students share what they learned with the class and explain why these facts are important to know.




5. “Earth Day” poem by Jane Yolen
Read the poem as a class. Discuss the themes presented in the poem and how they relate to the themes of the play The Poison Sky and to the first chapter of Silent Spring.



CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

6. Rachel Carson's 1953 letter to the editor of the Washington Post
As a class, read this excerpt from Carson's letter. Ask: What was Carson's purpose in writing this letter? Why might she have decided to write it to the editor of the Washington Post? What does she mean by "The real wealth of the Nation lies in the resources of the earth . . . "? What does she mean when she refers to a return to "the dark ages of unrestrained exploitation and destruction"?


Extension Activity

“As much as any book can, Silent Spring changed the world by describing it.” -Elizabeth Kolbert, journalist and author

Write or post this quote on a whiteboard. Have students sit in small groups to discuss what Kolbert means. As a class, discuss whether Kolbert was right. Students should draw on evidence from both “When Mosquitoes Were Killers in America” and The Poison Sky.

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