Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Lorax

By: Dr. Seuss

Grade Level: 3-5

The story begins with a boy wondering who the elusive Lorax is at the edge of town. He encounters the Once-ler who tells the story of the Lorax: He was as a creature that spoke 'for the trees.' He advocated for the inhabitants of the Truffala Tree forest while the Once-ler destroyed it. The Once-ler greedily chopped down all of the trees to create more and more 'Thneeds' knitted from the Truffala thread. The inhabitants of the forest had to leave because the Once-ler's factory and business continued to expand. The area became desolate and empty of the beautiful nature that had once stood there. The Lorax continually advocated on behalf of the inhabitants about pollution, the lack of natural resources, and the devastation that the Once-ler created with his greed. When the Once-ler finishes telling his regrettable story, he provides the boy with the last Truffala seed urging him to fix what he had destroyed.

Social Justice Element 6: Taking Social Action:

The Lorax is a classic tale for introducing taking social action. It covers many global and local community issues that are currently more prevalent than ever. It 'plants the seed' that young readers might need to begin thinking about environmental factors critically. It provides a deep perspective of what can happen when greed-driven development takes place, without thinking about the communities it will affect. Many communities and small businesses are being effected by large corporations and the over developing of land; this is an exemplary introduction for creating a social action project with a class. 

Follow–Up Activity:
After reading The Lorax, students can draw from the phrase

"UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

as a project theme:

Research a park, or area at risk in one's community:
I would develop a project around The Great Falls of Paterson, NJ, because it is a natural and historical area of New Jersey, and a national landmark, that has been at risk until recently. In 2009 it was recognized as a national park, now known as the Great Falls State Park, but there continues to be ongoing issues with the area. Cultural preservation of the mills, water wheels, and factories want to be upheld. Making the natural area more attractive with amphitheaters and trails are also issues that are being requested by the people involved. Unfortunately, not many community members of the area are actually involved.

Find ways to help:
The Paterson Museum held a design competition, calling on highly distinguished landscape architects. Students can ask the museum if any playgrounds are involved in these designs, or what areas are being dedicated to children. From the master plan found here map, there is no trace of one. 

Get involved:
Teach students, or review, how to write formal letters to the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson, asking them to think of the children of the community also. Research as a class the proper ways to petition an issue of this nature. Encourage the students to tell the community members that they know to get involved. The students will be involved with contributing to their community, collaborating with each other, and proactive in making their voices heard to people who may not hold the same concerns. (Ideally, if I were executing a project of this magnitude with my class, I would suggest that my students ask for a student-mural-competition for the playground. Classes from around New Jersey can enter to design a mural).

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