Dr. Seuss teaches peace - The Lorax 

"If we are to reach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with the children."  Gandhi

The Lorax (themes are conservation, and dangers of greed and valuing things over people) weaves a familiar tale of a good thing gone wrong; the irresponsible ambitious Once-ler builds a huge, thriving business  at the expense of Truffula trees and the creatures who depend on them.

Published in 1971, Dr. Seuss sought to shame the current generation and challenge the next generation by demonstrating the pitfalls of progress.

Go green with the Lorax.  (1st-3rd graders)

Background/History: The Lorax, written by Dr. Seuss in 1971, focuses on environmentalism and the consequences of increasing industrialization.  Published the same year as the founding of green peace, this children’s story marks the beginning of the environmental movement.  Using colorful and animated characters, Seuss personifies big industry in an entrepreneur, the Once-ler, and the stereotypical environmentalist in the Lorax. The Lorax is a mysterious character who attempts to protect animals’ habitats from the Once-ler's destructive and greedy actions.  The message Seuss portrays about the detrimental effects of environmental apathy is one that resounds strongly still in today’s world with the ever looming prospects of global warming.  

 Objectives:

  • Students will discuss the symbolism of both main characters
  • Students will analyze the environmentalist theme of the story
  • Students will discuss parallels from the story to their own society
  • Students will search for potential solutions to the growing problem of pollution and climate change

Instructions:

1.   Hand out copies of the book and have the students read it in a read aloud so many students get a chance to read.

2.   Start a class discussion with open ended questions such as:

a. Was it fair for the Once-ler to destroy natural habitats for his business?

b. Could the Once-ler have kept his business going without cutting down every Truffula Tree?

c. Do people destroy natural habitats in your city, state, or country? Where does it happen?

d. Does destroying other animals’ habitats affect humans?

3.   Transition into a class activity by dividing the class into groups of four.

4.   Give each group ten plastic cups and tell them to stack the cups in a pyramid shape.

5.   Next instruct each group to choose one cup from the bottom row and try to remove it without knocking any of the others down.  When the pyramid collapses tell them to try it again but choosing a different of the four bottom cups.

Evaluation

      Lead a class discussion based on the observation that removing one cup automatically affects the entire pyramid.  Prompt the class to find the connection between the pyramids’ dependence on every one of its cups, to an ecosystem, where every change in some way affects the whole ecosystem.  Discuss the effects of specific man made changes, big and small, to the environment as a whole.

Optional follow up activities

1.   Divide the class into groups and assign each group a section of the story to act out for the class (e.g. the section describing the land before the Once-ler came, the scene where the Lorax appears in the story, when the different animals are forced to leave their homes).  At the end, have the class discuss possible ways the Once-ler could have continued his business without damaging the environment as much. (This Activity is geared towards an older age group and would be an alternative to the cup stacking for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders)

2.   You may also choose to show the animated movie “The Lorax.”

 

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