Saturday, April 21, 2012

Earth Day lesson with the Lorax

I love the Lorax!  I have ever since I was old enough to read it...I remember watching it on TV long before there was such thing as Earth Day (or at least one recognized in schools!) I loved the idea of helping the planet then, and I love the idea of helping the planet now.  So when I saw an article using this book highlighted in NSTA's magazine Science and Children this month, I knew I had to duplicated it in my classroom.  The article, Truffula Tree Troubles, was written by Robert Snyder and addresses the issue of tree harvesting. My class had just finished reading Owl in My Shower which is a great book that also addresses the issue of logging rights vs. ecological issues.   We were already familiar with the idea that there are two sides to every story.

Anyway, you can find the article for purchase at the NSTA store and I highly recommend you do that to get the full lesson plan.  The article gives objectives, materials and a detailed lesson plan that follows the 5 E's nicely (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate),  I will give you a quick run down on the "gist" of the activity...

You will replicate the idea of cutting down trees like the Oncler did using 5 different types of noodles.   I started off by reading from the book until they get to the section where the oncler starts chopping down all the trees. At this point I have the children get into small groups. (My students already work daily in cooperative science groups with rotating jobs which really helped with this activity.) Each group is assigned a card with a noodle attached. That is the "tree" their group will harvest.  I pointed out to them that just like a real forest doesn't have an equal amount of trees, either will they.  Some groups will have more than others. 

You will put all the noodles on a drop cloth (I used a plastic table cloth) for easy harvesting (and clean up).  Then each group will send one member to the "forest" to harvest their trees for 45 seconds.  After that time, they will return to their group and record the number of trees harvested.  They will do this 8 times.

The students (like the once-ler) were very excited at the beginning to harvest many trees at once.  However, after several trials...they noticed that they were getting fewer and fewer trees...and suddenly ... the trees were gone!

What a great opportunity to discuss with them the idea of renewable and non-renewable resources.  We discussed that some natural resources are non-renewable - meaning that once they are used up they are gone for good.  That's what happened to the Once-ler and the Truffula trees.  However, we learned in Owl in the Shower that forests can be renewable resources if loggers don't just clear cut and move on, but instead replant after each cut.  That is what we are trying to do here in Virginia with our logging industry.

In the NSTA article, Robert Snyder had included some fantastic follow up questions.  In keeping with my science notebook process, I re-wrote the form to include his idea of a data chart, a line plot, a conclusion (my idea) and a reflection (his idea). 

You will notice that I purposefully left the line plot unmarked - that is so you can hand write the trials at the bottom (# 1-8) and the amount of noodles on the side.  I had written only up to 40 noodles per handful (counting by 5's) and I have to say the kids far exceeded that amount.  When I do it next year, I will write the numbers by 10's up to 80 instead.  You can down load it for free at my TPT store.


  1. This is a great lesson -- and a fabulous use of The Lorax! With my third graders, we used the Lorax as a way to introduce interdependency. I like to teach vocabulary through picture books, and even fiction, so it was a great opportunity to take something familiar to them and connect it to real-life concepts. They did a great job -- we did a web discussing how interdependency is shown in the Lorax, and then we filled out a Frayer model flipcard for the vocabulary term. The kids began to really connect what it means to be interdependent to all facets of their life, even beyond science.

  2. I love this idea!! I will save it for our half days we have at the end of the year!!
    To The Square Inch