The topic of climate change is often confined to the science classroom and addressed as a purely scientific issue. This approach minimizes the urgency and scope of environmental justice and its intersection with ethical, social, political, and historical considerations that lie at the heart of the problem. English and social studies classes have a unique opportunity to study climate change through a humanities lens and ask the critical questions: Whose voices are ignored or suppressed in the climate conversation? Whose voices should be brought to the center? Whose stories contain wisdom that can benefit us all and lead the way to meaningful and decisive action?
In these lessons, students will listen to audio, look at images and video, and read text from the project “Earth on Fire,” using the content as an entry point for social critique and the exploration of past and present realities of race, land, home, belonging, and identity.
Standards met through this curriculum
Learning Outcomes/Essential Questions
- Use reading and listening strategies to enhance comprehension of multimedia texts and engage critical thinking.
- Analyze informational multimedia text and structure using evidence.
- Explore issues of race, land, home, belonging, and identity while demonstrating their ELA and history/social studies skills through listener/reader response and discussion.
- Why is it important to know the history of where we live, including the history of indigenous peoples and species? How does this history shape the ways we live in the present?
- How are tribes well situated to lead the collective action required to slow climate catastrophe?
- How do tribes take important strategic action to protect sacred sites and sacred resources and, in so doing, create a tribal precedent that could educate and gather us all?
- How can we use lessons from history to create responsible fire policy going forward? What should that policy look like and why?
- How does environmental justice intersect with social justice?
Depth of Knowledge (DOK)
Levels 1, 2, 3, 4
For more information on DOK, see DOK Slide Wheel
Classroom computer, projector, and speakers to play audio and video from “Earth on Fire”
- Review all resources and decide which components you will include and how many lessons to allot for this curriculum. (Note: Almost every component can be used as a stand-alone piece or combined with other components.)
- Preview and take notes on “Earth on Fire” text, audio, and video content.
- Preview and prepare your chosen handouts.
- Plan the format and resources you will use for a final discussion.
- Students will use the scaffolded audio response handout and scaffolded timeline handout to organize and reflect on information presented in different communication modalities.
- TAG Option: You may choose to give advanced students the SOAPS Text Analysis handout for tracking the argument and purpose of the audio recordings and essay text.
Ask students to respond to the following questions in writing or discuss them with a partner:
Have you or anyone you know been affected by wildfires? What have you heard about wildfires in the news? What do you know about wildfires in this state or region?
Share the who/what/when/where/why/how of the situation, using the information you know.
Consider sharing an example from your own life to help generate ideas. Give students time to think about and record their responses, then conduct a think-pair-share to review responses as a class before moving on.
- Audio response:
Pair each student with a partner. Explain that each dyad will use student devices or classroom technology to listen to Christine Dupres’ audio recordings in order, taking notes on each with the accompanying handout. (If this is not possible, listen to each audio recording as a whole class.) You may want to play the first recording, “Christine,” to the whole class before they divide up, so you can model the process of listening and taking notes.
Play each recording at least twice, asking students to listen first without taking notes so they can focus on the overall structure and sound elements. On subsequent sessions, ask students to listen for specific information to include in their notes chart. Give students time to record a summary for each section of the notes chart, then conduct a think-pair-share as an informal assessment of their comprehension.
(Option: You may ask students to view the one-minute video of Native firefighter Yolanda Yallup as a supplement to the “Yolanda” audio recording.)
- Audio response:
Introduce the reflection questions of the handout, and ask students to review their notes on each audio recording. Give students time to think about and write down their responses, then conduct a think-pair-share as an informal assessment of their comprehension.
- Fire policy timeline:
Ask students to continue working with their partners, and introduce the fire policy timeline handout. Explain that each dyad will use student devices or classroom technology to explore the online timeline “The Evolution of Fire Policy in the United States,” taking notes on the events included in the accompanying handout. (If this is not possible, present the timeline to the whole class.) You may want to present the first event on the timeline handout, “The Beginning of the National Parks,” to the whole class before they divide up, so you can model the process of reading and taking notes. Give students time to work through the events of the timeline, then conduct a think-pair-share as an informal assessment of their comprehension.
(Option: You may ask students to view the one-minute video of Native firefighter Yolanda Yallup as a supplement to the timeline.)
After students have completed the timeline, ask them to use their notes to respond to the following questions in writing or discuss them with a partner:
- How can fire both harm and help the land and its inhabitants?
- How has U.S. fire policy changed over time?
- What kind of fire policy and practices should we adopt as a response to climate change?
Give students time to think about and write down their responses, then conduct a think-pair-share as an informal assessment of their comprehension.
Read Christine Dupres’ essay “Earth on Fire” aloud with the whole class, or ask students to read it silently. If reading aloud, pause at different points to model the think-aloud strategy and demonstrate summary of the text. After reading, ask students to identify which parts of the essay also appear in the audio recordings and/or fire policy timeline, and which parts introduce new information that does not appear elsewhere.
After students reflect on the audio recordings, fire policy timeline, and/or essay, conduct a think-pair-share or whole group/Socratic Seminar-style discussion on these ideas. For a more extensive and structured discussion, you may choose to incorporate the discussion handout of essential questions and/or discussion rubric.
ELL and SPED Supports: Scaffolded assignment options, text/audio/video options
TAG Extensions: SOAPS Text Analysis handout to use during and after reading or listening, optional extensions
Assessment/Student Performance Tasks
- Audio notes chart (Formative)
- Timeline notes (Formative)
- Reflection questions/closing discussion (Summative)
Additional Resources/Related Reading
Stand with Standing Rock: News
Tribes Prevail, Kill Proposed Coal Terminal at Cherry Point
Apache Tribe Rejects Move to Store Nuclear Waste on Reservation
Aquinnah Wampanoag Sues Feds Over Cape Wind
An Oregon Canyon Curriculum Guide
The Original Laws Curriculum Guide
Future: Portland 2
Between Ribbon and Root