Earth Day (celebrated on April 22nd) gives us an excellent opportunity to talk about protecting the environment, being more eco-friendly, and more aware of our responsibilities as inhabitants of the Earth. Our course books usually contain interesting resources that we can use in class to discuss issues concerning the environment. However, implementing a kind of eco-awareness is an important task of school education. It is not only necessary as common knowledge of our times, it is also important for very practical reasons in the classroom: environmental vocabulary has become everyday language and it is also present in language exams.
What activities can we do in the language classroom that will help our students with thinking, reasoning, and language skills at the same time? On the one hand, telling our students that protecting the environment is important but not enough to make them more conscious of the issues raised by environmental scientists. Reading and writing stories to contextualize these issues can create meaningful experiences.
Let's see our reading lists first, and then you will find some resources for different levels and age groups.
The Thirsty Tree (level c Young Reader) written by Adrián N. Bravi, illustrated by Valentina Russello
It is summer and it is very hot. The tree on top of the hill is very thirsty. Its leaves are brown and there is no water to drink. Then the tree sees Cloudbreak, a little bird. Can Cloudbreak help the tree to find some water?
Lost on the Coast (level e Young Reader) written by Rick Sampedro, illustrated by Cristiano Lissoni
A baby whale is stranded on a beach after an oil spill. It is hot and the whale can’t breathe. Lots of people come to look but no-one knows what to do until Rawiri arrives. Rawiri has got a plan. Is his plan good enough to save the whale?
Teens and Young Adults
- Levels A1, A2, B1
Holly, the Eco Warrior (level 2 Red Reader - Graphic Story) written by Martyn Hobbs, illustrated by Lorenzo Sabbatini
Holly’s favourite place is the tree house in the old oak tree in her garden. When her father decides to cut down the tree to build an office, she starts an unusual protest and moves out of her home and into the tree house. Who will win the battle of the tree?
Operation Osprey (level 4 Blue Reader) written by David A. Hill, illustrated by Giovanni Da Re
Don and Mike are best friends. They both live in the sleepy town of Saltley and they both love birdwatching. Their lives suddenly become exciting when Mike spots a pair of osprey at a nearby lake. The boys decide to protect the birds so that they can make a nest. But when Mr Roberts takes an interest in the birds the boys become suspicious.
Red Water (level 5 Blue Reader) written by Antoinette Moses, illustrated by Cinzia Battistel
When teen hackers Tricia and Daniel discover that a local company could be involved in a sinister plot to trade carbon, they suddenly find that their lives are in danger. How is Tricia’s father involved? Can Tricia protect her family and Daniel?
Click on the titles to visit the web pages of each book in the Helbling Readers online catalogue. You will find sample pages and audio files for each reader.
Young Adult Novels
Here are four titles that are concerned with the themes of the environment and nature for fluent readers who love Young Adult Novels. Visit the Helbling 101 YANS website for more information.
- The Trap by John Smelcer
- Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
- Scat by Carl Hiaasen
- Skink - No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen
Kids and Teens - lower levels
Teens, Young Adults, Adults - higher levels
- Earth Day Network website: Read about the history of the movement.
- BBC News: Type in the words 'environment' and 'Earth' in the search box, and read the articles.
- BBC EARTH: Browse this wonderful website, watch videos, view images, and read articles.
- BBC Learning: Humans and the Environment
- 12 TED Talks to watch on Earth Day: Use the transcripts to create listening comprehension, gap-fill, and vocabulary activities
Reading for the environment
We have a series of blog posts with lesson ideas and project topics based on various aspects of environmental studies. Check them out here:
And finally, here is a poem by the Canadian author, Margaret Atwood. This poem is mostly associated with our relationship with the world we live in.
The Moment by Margaret Atwood
The moment when, after many years of hard work and a long voyage you stand in the centre of your room, house, half-acre, square mile, island, country, knowing at last how you got there, and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose their soft arms from around you, the birds take back their language, the cliffs fissure and collapse, the air moves back from you like a wave and you can't breathe.
No, they whisper. You own nothing. You were a visitor, time after time climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming. We never belonged to you. You never found us. It was always the other way round.