Environmental Awareness Annotated Bibliography and lesson plans by Deborah Kimball

Environmental Awareness Annotated Bibliography



Environmental Awareness                                                                                 Deborah Kimball

Annotated Bibliography


“Environmental education should also foster young people’s interest and engagement on public issues and democratic principles in order to effectively address environmental issues.” (Torkar, p.50). For this unit I would like to discuss how to get children to be more environmentally aware and be mindful of our natural resources and the consequences of abusing our home. In recent research it has been stated that teachers influences as children tend to shape their views about the environment and how to better take care of our world. (Torkar, P.51) Our planet needs its defenders, so by educating the young we will grow a generation of thinkers and disruptors that will seek change and move us into the future while conserving our resources. According to Bruguiere, “Citizens should have some scientific literacy In order to understand the world we live in. This argument is often mobilized when the public resists a transformation which scientists define as positive. (Bruguiere, p.20) In the elementary grades, science and social studies have been pushed to the side in the last decade to teach to the PSSA tests which measure competencies in Language Arts and Mathematics. While those subjects are crucial to learn for student success in the future, it also becomes important to focus on science and social studies in a very targeted way so the student can receive a well-rounded education in the little time that is left to study those subjects. “Many science educators believe that one of the goals of science education is to help students develop their understanding of how society and science are mutually dependent.” (Bruguiere, p.38) “Education has changed its role from transmitting “old wisdom” and propagating conventional mores only, to changing the world or at least being competent in navigating the world, and particularly a technological, global, world. It is vital that our education prepare a new generation of students to move from a very occupation- minded, instrumental view of their education to one that puts social responsibility on their life map even if not at the center.” (Mueller, p. V) In Torkar’s article, Learning Experiences That Produce Environmentally Active and Informed Minds, he states that there is a need to not only teach students about environmental issues, but believes we should develop a comprehensive curriculum that would be taught every year as the student progresses through his schooling. He also describes the best use of time invested in environmental education is to have hands on activities outside of the classroom and utilizing nature itself as much as possible. He also stresses the importance of teachers being good role models for their students.  If you model environmentally responsible behavior in the classroom and talk to the students about things you do at home to be responsible they will learn from the teacher’s actions how to behave responsibly.


My personal reasons for wanting to develop this unit are because of the current political climate in Washington who seek to destroy any scientific advancements we have made as a society in the last decade.  Students need to know that is not okay to pollute our streams and lakes with coal ash from coal burning plants that cause cancer and is now legal for businesses to dump anywhere without regulation.  The students need to know that laws have been repealed for clean air so businesses may pollute our air without recrimination.  They need to know that that dirty air we may breathe causes asthma and COPD in areas where contamination is high.

Students need to know that we are killing the wildlife in our oceans because plastic water bottles are filling our seas and the animals are ingesting them.  Students need to know that we are filling our seas with garbage and chemicals that are contaminating our fish. Students need to know that our National Parks are going to be leased out for oil drilling.  Students need to know that we have no renewable energy plan in this country that would make oil drilling obsolete. Students need to know what fracking can do to our land and water supply. Students need to become vested in what is happening to our world and how they can save it. We need the next generation of students to leave this world in better shape than they found it. We need schools to teach kids science because it is real and fact based and should leave the study of Creationism for Sunday school.


I have selected a wide variety of books about the environment for my bibliography.  I think for the grades I would present this to, grades 2 to 4, I think it makes the most sense to cover recycling as a broad issue.  Within that issue you could cover the importance of clean water, healthy oceans for our wildlife, and clean air to breathe which would fit within the normal science lessons taught in most schools and I think those are concepts that children that age are cognitively able to understand. A few of the books may be a little difficult as books they read on their own but they could be books that could be read aloud and discussed. Some authors I have seen repeatedly while searching out books on the topic are Patricia Newman and Loree Griffin Burns. Patricia Newman is a graduate of Cornell University and a former math teacher. Loree Griffin Burns has a PhD. in Biochemistry and an award winning author.


Arnold, Caroline, and Jamie Hogan. A Warmer World: From Polar Bears to Butterflies, How Climate Change Affects Wildlife. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2012. Print.

This book points out the changes that animals are having to adapt to because of Global Warming.  The Golden Toad has been extinct for 20 years in Costa Rica because its habitat changed due to global warming and it could not survive. The text is not fatalistic though. The author points out while some species are becoming extinct because of global warming and the effects that have devastated their habitats, some others are flourishing. The pictures are collage style and a different animal is featured on 2 pages.  There is a glossary in the back to help with vocabulary.  In a classroom you could use this text to show the effects of global warming or use it in a further study of what happens when animals become extinct.  This could also be the gateway from studying why climate change occurs and then begin a study on the effects of climate change around the world.

I would also add this book to the classroom library.

Bullard, Lisa, and Wes Thomas. Choose to Reuse. Minneapolis: Millbrook, 2012. Print.

Tyler’s job at home is to take out the trash and he realizes how much stuff we throw away. He and his mother decide to try to spend one whole day reusing stuff they might throw away normally to keep it out of the landfill. The story focuses on reducing waste by reusing what you have, trading with your friends for something “new”, and buying secondhand items. This book has an attractive mix of text and illustrations for younger and struggling readers. The content is factual but fun because it makes it fun to recycle.  The text contains three chapters about recycling, a glossary of terms, and a Learn More section that helps kids find other information about how to recycle.

In the classroom I think this could be used to have the students examine their own recycling habits and those of their families.  They could ask themselves is there improvement to be made at home? They could perhaps write a persuasive letter to their family to convince them to take more care in their recycling habits. I would also add this book to the classroom library.



Burns, Loree Griffin. The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe. New York, NY: Scholastic, 2014. Print.

This book chronicles the story of honey bees suddenly and mysteriously dying -usually the whole hive.  It is called Colony Collapse Disorder.  The book follows four scientists trying to figure out what is causing the bees in the hive to die. Although they never come to a conclusion it gives the reader some important facts to think about.  One fact is that without bees we will starve to death.  This text has excellent pictures and is organized very well and explains the scientific process they are carrying out.  I would use this book in a science class about the life cycle of plants. Students need to learn to have a healthy respect for bees and it would be nice to grow some plants that the students could take home and plant to attract bees to their home gardens. I would also add this book to the classroom library.


Burns, Loree Griffin. Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion. Boston: Sandpiper/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. Print.

This book is about a scientist Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer and his quest to track the movement of trash in our oceans because of currents.  The trash he tracks gives him information about the ocean’s currents and how they are changing due to climate change. Some of the trash is from cargo ships when their  containers fall off the ship and land in the ocean. Some of the trash is actual human garbage mainly plastics.  The book has great photos and illustrations and includes insets throughout the book to teach kids what they can do to keep the ocean clean. In a classroom I would use this as a read aloud for a science class.  I also feel like it could fit into a social studies unit about recycling and pollution in the environment. I would also add this book to the classroom library.


David, Laurie, and Cambria Gordon. The Down-to-earth Guide to Global Warming. Gosford,

NSW: Scholastic, 2008. Print.

This book aims to educate students about the causes and effects of global warming. It also has a section in the book that shows the reader what they can do to reduce global warming themselves. The text has fantastic pictures and illustrations as well as charts to explain the science. It starts with the history of the use of  fossil fuels the main cause of global warming and then there are two chapters about the effects of global warming, the first is Wacky Weather and the second is Extinction Stinks. This book is humorous and the illustrations are great. It gives the students something to think about and then it shows them how to take action.  In a classroom it could be used as a read aloud or an independent reading book depending on the reading level of the child.  I could see this book fitting into a science unit about global warming or by using different sections of the book like Extinction Stinks or weather unit could use Wacky Weather,  I don’t think the book has to be used whole. I would also add this text to the classroom library.


Delano, Marfe Ferguson. Earth in the Hot Seat: Bulletins from a Warming World. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2009. Print.

This book is made to look like a National Geographic Magazine.

The first part of the book is about the signs of global warming and the science of global warming.  The chapters’ then move ahead to reveal what can be done to mitigate global warming and how the reader can help. In between chapters, there is a bulletin that has a thermometer.  As the chapters increase the thermometer increases one degree. Next to the thermometer a scientist explains what the rising of that one degree will do to the planet. The photos are beautiful and help the reader to understand the text. The text uses real life stories of the effects of climate change on communities and also looks at from a global perspective. In a classroom, I think this book would be very effective with a struggling reader and a reading buddy.  There is a lot of information to be gained from the photos. I would also include it in my classroom library.



Green, Jen, and Mike Gordon. Why Should I Recycle? New York: Scholastic, 2006. Print.

The book is about a young girl whose teacher teaches them about recycling.  The students learn what items to recycle and why recycling is good for the environment.  The teacher takes his class on a field trip to a recycling center so the students understand what happens to the items they recycle and what products the recycled materials are likely to end up being turned into.  The little girl then goes home and teaches her family how to recycle. This book explains to students what happens to the items they place in the recycling bin to make the concept of recycling more relatable to their lives. The text has illustrations that explain the more technical concepts of the book. In the back of the book there are follow up activities and a selection of other books to read if the student wants to find out more. In the classroom or at home the student can engage in the follow-up activities in the back of the text. A teacher could arrange their own field trip to a recycling facility or have each of the students’ research products they buy to see how much of the product used recycled materials. I would also add this book to the classroom library.


Gutman, Dan. Recycle This Book: 100 Top Children’s Book Authors Tell You How to Go Green. New York: Yearling, 2009. Print.

This book is a collection of essays by  100 famous children’s book authors like Jane Yolen, Jerry Spinelli, and Lois Lowry. They  were asked to write about the ways that they each recycle in their own lives.  The essays are humorous but sometimes repetitive. The essays are well written and written to children. The book has four parts focusing on different places you should consider recycling: at home, at school, in your community, and your world. Since this book can be a little repetitive in the classroom I would have each child read just one or two  authors’  essays  and then write an essay comparing what each author does to recycle and compare it to how the student recycles. It could also be used as a read aloud throughout the year .  It may even introduce the students to a new author or be used as part of an author study unit.  After reading a particular essay the teacher could make a few books available by that author in the classroom library. I would also add it to the classroom library.


Kelsey, Elin, and Clayton Hanmer. Not Your Typical Book About the Environment. N.p.: Paw Prints, 2010. Print.

This book explains the real cost of what items we buy, not just how much we pay but how much the environment pays as well.  For example a cotton t-shirt doesn’t cost a lot of money, but the environmental cost is 25 bathtubs of water to grow the cotton to make the t-shirt.  The book is upbeat and describes how we are overcoming some of environmental problems with new technology and adaptive living. The text has a nice mix of illustrations and graphs to interest students. Text uses everyday objects that the students use in their lives to demonstrate the “cost” of their consumerism and how recycling items like water bottles creates other things they use every day. In the classroom or at home this book could be used to teach students to respect their possessions and to take care of them. I think this text will also help students to seek out items that are made from recycled materials. That could be a classroom project to identify things made from recycled materials. I would also add this to my classroom library.



Kirk, Ellen. Human Footprint: Everything You Will Eat, Use, Wear, Buy, and Throw Out in Your Lifetime. N.p.: Natl Geographic Soc Children’s, 2011. Print.

This book gives students a visual representation of what a lifetime of consumerism looks like from the mundane things we use every day.  It shows students what a lifetime of soda bottles and orange peels looks like.  It shows piles of diapers and even glasses of milk.  The book quantifies visually the toll on the earth that American Consumerism is taking. It also gives the reader some appreciation for things like how long it takes a cow to produce a gallon of milk.  This text is an excellent source to help student realize the impact they have on their world and to be more mindful what it takes to produce things. This book has excellent visual representations of the text and provides information in a humorous way kids will enjoy. In the classroom I think this book could be used identify ways in the school and classroom that we could reduce trash and recycle more. It would be very easy to do by estimating at the end of the day what was in our classroom trashcan versus the recycling can.  We could also examine the trash after lunch in the cafeteria. The students could then start a recycling campaign for the school. I would also add this book to the classroom library.


Locker, Thomas, and Joseph Bruchac. Rachel Carson: Preserving a Sense of Wonder. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Pub., 2009. Print.

This book is about the famous naturalist, Rachel Carson.  The text is not an in depth look at her life but rather in introduction . Rachel Carson is an environmental activist who changed many minds with her book Silent Spring. This book chronicles how she views nature and uses a timeline to list her accomplishments.  The words of the text are by Joe Bruchac and are very poetic. The artwork is amazing .  This is a great book to use in the classroom as a beginner biography.  It might be used to start an a unit on the environment and then have a discussion with the students to see what their background knowledge is on environmental issues. I would also add this to the classroom library



Newman, Patricia, and Annie Crawley. Plastic, Ahoy!: Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Minneapolis: Millbrook, 2014. Print.

This book is about three graduate women scientist that go to explore a garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean.  The garbage patch is made up of mostly plastic bottles that made their way into the ocean and were brought to one spot by the currents. The book has many photographs of experiments and visual aids like maps and charts to help students understand the material.  The text uses many scientific and maritime words which  will likely expose students to new vocabulary.  The book contains a glossary of terms. Since the vocabulary may be a little complex in this text I think I would use it in the classroom as a read aloud. This book could be used to demonstrate what happens when you throw out that plastic bottle instead of recycling it. It could also be connected to a unit about the world oceans since the reason all the trash ended up there was because of the ocean’s currents. I would also add this to the classroom library.



Paul, Miranda, and Zunon. One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia. Minneapolis: Lerner Group, 2015. Print.

This book is about a young girl in Gambia. In her town, its citizens were throwing plastic bags all over the ground when they were no longer of use.  As time went by huge amounts of plastic bags were everywhere. Water was collecting in them so mosquitoes flourished and spread disease. Burying the piles and burning the piles were not the answer either. Isatou, the young girl in the story, took the plastic and started weaving the plastic into purses which she sold.  She also taught the other women in the community to do the same.  She saved the environment and empowered the women of her community. This book has beautiful illustrations and tells a very important true story. This text could be used in the classroom as read aloud.  The teacher could have a project planned that everyone bring in  a plastic bag and have the students weave them together to make something useful.  The teacher could decide in advance, or the students could brainstorm and activity. I would also add this to the classroom library,



Rockliff, Maria. Get Real What Kind of World Are You Buying? N.p.: Paw Prints, 2012. Print.

This book not only teaches the reader  the environmental impact of the purchases they make it also uncovers the hidden stories of the cultural devastation that those products make on societies.  In one story it shows the impact on a society to fulfill our love of chocolate.  It details how children are forced into labor at a young age for very little wage.  These children work outrages hours and are sprayed with pesticides daily as the farmers spray the trees to keep away pests.  All that so that we can consume a chocolate bar. The text tells you about the true cost of what we are buying .  The book has great illustrations and pictures throughout the text. This text examines critically why advertisements work and has a section in the back for readers who would like to find out more.

The text is written for little older audience but could be used in a classroom to extend learning about how what buy effects not only the environment but other human beings.  This text could be used in a younger classroom as a read aloud with a discussion about the deplorable conditions in which some human beings are being treated to make that new toy they just had to have. In the classroom I think it would be interesting for the students to identify items they own that are mentioned in the book.  The students should list them and then write about the environmental and societal impact the item had where it was made.  Then the student should discuss how finding out the backstory to his or her  possessions has or has not  changed their view about the necessity of the items. I would also add this text to the classroom library.




Sidman, Joyce. The Season’s Campaign. Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/54678 accessed 04/24/2017

This poem I believe describes the life cycle of a cattails in a pond.  It describes their lives in every season from spring to winter. It could be used in the classroom in an environmental unit about watersheds or for a science unit about plants.



Wilson, Janet. Our Earth: How Kids Are Saving the Planet. Toronto: Second Story, 2010. Print.

–          This book profiles  ten children from 7-17 years old who have done amazing things to help the environment. These kid activists do everything: speeches at the Earth Summit, organic gardening, and windmills that produce electricity.  This text will inspire.  Each child has a spread inside that tells about what he or she does and it lists website links and great photos.  The book is visually stimulating.  The text contains website links for further learning and at the back it gives students ideas about how to give your school an environmental report card or just how to unplug and use less. In the classroom I think this could be used to inspire a deep learning project. The class could decide what in their environment around them could use a tune up or a complete revamp. Deep learning requires the students to make their own decisions about their project with the teacher being a facilitator. So what happens would be up to the students. I would also add this book to the classroom library.






To begin a unit in a third grade Social Studies class about recycling I would read aloud Choose to Reuse.  This book would open up a discussion about recycling and allow the teacher to measure how much background knowledge the students have about recycling.

After their background knowledge has been determined, I would read aloud  Why Should I Recycle? I would use this text to increase the student’s knowledge of recycling and have a discussion about how we could possibly reduce trash and increase recycling in our classroom.  Each day we could take a measurement with a yardstick and measure our trash vs. our recycling bins and graph it for a month.  Hopefully the students will become more aware and the trash would decrease and the recycling would increase.

For my third book I would choose  One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia. I would read aloud this text to demonstrate to the students that even young people that are witnessing an environmental disaster have the intelligence to solve a problem and in this case empowered the women of Gambia.  The students have the power to change things they see are wrong.  I would have the students Think-Ink-Pair- Share about things in their environment that they think need to be fixed and possible solutions. First the student would brainstorm on their own and write down some problems and possible solutions.  Then they would get into small groups and  share what problems and solutions they brainstormed.  The class would then share whole group and make a chart of problems vs. solutions. In a perfect world the student could take on a deep learning project by voting to choose one thing to fix in our local environment and work on it as a class, with the teacher being the facilitator. The project should last at least six weeks with the students meeting on Monday and Friday mornings for 15 minutes to discuss their progress.

The fourth book  I would introduce to the class would be Get Real What Kind of World Are You Buying? This book is an important piece of the unit because not only does it demonstrate for the students the environmental cost for the items they buy or already own, it also illustrates the human cost.  For instance, because the US and now China, have such huge appetites for chocolate bars, young boys and girls work grueling hours every day for little or no money and are sprayed with pesticides while they are working as the farmers protect their crops from insects. I would have the students write down the things they own that they recognize from the book and have them add the environmental and societal cost of those items.  The student should then evaluate whether or not the items they own are worth the total cost. For extra credit they could write letters to the manufacturers of those items and demand change.

For the culmination of the recycling unit I would have each student choose 2 essays from Recycle This Book: 100 Top Children’s Book Authors Tell You How to Go Green.  Each student will read the essays and compare and contrast the recycling habits of their selected authors and their own. The essays would  be published and displayed.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s